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The Australian National University

Associate Professor Brett Lidbury

B.Sc. (Hons) Ph.D. FFSc (RCPA)
Associate Professor - National Centre for Epidemiology and Public Health
ANU College of Health and Medicine and ANU College of Science
T: +61 (0)2 6125 7875

Areas of expertise

  • Medical Virology 110804
  • Biostatistics 010402
  • Infectious Diseases 110309
  • Pathology (Excl. Oral Pathology) 110316

Research interests

Previous laboratory-based interests in virology and pathogenesis have moved in silico, with the application of machine-learning/pattern-recognition techniques to support the study of human susceptibility or resistance to disease post viral infection (e.g. HBV). Techniques include recursive partitioning (trees) and support vector machines (SVMs), as both classification and regression applications to biomedical data. This research theme has diversified into other aspects of quality in diagnostic pathology, supported by the Quality Use of Pathology Programme (QUPP - Commonwealth Department of Health), and in collaboration with the Royal College of Pathologists (QAP) and NSW Health Pathology.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) studies are ongoing with research participants recruited and assessed by CFS Discovery in Melbourne, and in collaboration with the Hudson Research Institute, Paranta Biosciences, Bio21 Institute (Melbourne) and JCSMR. The CFS/ME projects are funded by the Mason Foundation and ME Research UK.

Biography

I completed undergraduate and honours degrees at the University of Newcastle, followed by a Ph.D. at the ANU (JCSMR). Post-doctoral experience was gained in molecular virology and mucosal vaccine development, followed by a lecturing position (molecular biology, genetics, medical science) at the University of Canberra. Research during this period involved investigations of immuno-pathogenesis associated with Ross River virus (RRV) infection, with key findings published on the elucidation of the molecular basis of antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE - associated with several viruses, including dengue) and a model of long-term viral persistence in host cells.

Further research on virus-host interaction and pathogenesis was conducted while attached to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the United States, supported by a NIH-R01 grant.

In addition to the above, I have experience in diagnostic pathology and a period as a pre-clinical evaluator (toxicology) with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Researcher's projects

Current and ongoing projects are associated with the development of alternatives to animals in fundamental biomedical research. Through this approach there are two disease foci being explored via non-animal strategies utilising bioinformatics, genetic data and biological validation through human pathology testing. These projects are:

  1. Susceptibility or resistance to hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and/or disease (this project has extended into liver disease generally and the role of routine LFTs in diagnosis), and enhanced laboratory diagnosis of anaemia - broadly in silico virology and pathology;
  2. Discovery of key genetic and laboratory (pathology) markers of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME, also known as "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" and in recent times refered to as CFS/ME). The genetics phase of this project is planned to commence in 2016 and continue into 2017. Also, pilot data from a 2011 - 2014 project has been analysed and informs a larger ongoing validation study on CFS/ME biomarker networks and immunology;
  3. Our group is also interested in conducting Systematic Review on biomedical topics of mutual interest.

Available student projects

As of 2016, there will be data available from past and current CFS/ME projects that will benefit from student involvement. A background in medical science and experience in statistics or data mining will be required. Other CFS/ME projects are available using sytematic review methods and meta-analysis.

A project may also be available in the biological validation of bioinformatic models for HBV infection and disease, suitable for a medical science graduate with experience in laboratory diagnosis or pathology testing - involvement in this project will require specialised training and vaccination prior to commencement, due to contact with potentially infected human samples.

Through research collaborator Associate Professor Mauricio Arcos-Burgos (JCSMR), future projects for students with an interest in human genetics will be available, primarily as in silico investigations.

Current student projects

Current student projects involve the statistical and machine learning interrogation of pathology data associated with vitamin D and kidney function. The aim is to define further parameters to assist in the accurate laboratory diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency.

Past student projects

Two students associated with our group completed their Ph.D. during 2013. Both projects involved advanced statistics and machine learning to enhance routine pathology data prediction for cardiac disease and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (Chinese & Australian populations).

Three MBBS students completed year-long projects over 2011 - 2013. One very successful study was published in the leading journal, the Journal of Internal Medicine, and reported multiple regression modelling of retrospective CFS/ME orthostatic intolerance (standing test) data, identifying new physiological criteria and guidelines for the diagnosis of fatigue. Two other projects used regression and factor analysis to determine multi-marker predictive data patterns for HBV infection.

All of the above projects also contributed to the development of alternative methods to help replace animal models of fundamental disease investigation.

Previous to this appointment, I have supervised students in Australia and the USA in areas pertaining to viral pathogeneis. In addition to the Post-Graduate and Graduate supervision stated above, I have also co-supervised a Masters student who studied the problem of missing values in pathology data sets.

Publications

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Updated:  19 October 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers