In the latest instalment of our Spotlight interview series, we sat down with Professor Clare Arnott, Head of Cardiovascular Program and Co-Director Global Better Treatments at The George Institute for Global Health, George Medicines’ academic partner. In this interview, Clare discusses her role at the Institute, her clinical expertise as a specialist cardiologist and her involvement with George Medicines as principal investigator in its upcoming trial investigating GMRx4, it’s single pill, triple combination candidate as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes.
How would you sum up the work of The George Institute for Global Health and its mission?
At The George Institute we aim to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide, with a key focus on equity, working not just in high income nations, but also in low- and middle-income countries and thinking about affordable and equitable healthcare solutions. We do this through three key pillars: ‘Better treatments’, where we’re trying to find new and innovative treatments for important health conditions; ‘Better care’, which is focused on health systems and primary care; and finally ‘Healthier societies’, which is focused on harnessing the power of communities, governments and markets to improve health.
Can you tell us about your role at the Institute and your current priorities?
I have two main roles: I lead our cardiovascular program, which is led out of the Australia office (with global projects) and spans the breadth of cardiovascular research from prevention to treatment of common conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. My second role is as co-director of our global better treatments program, which is a program of work that’s very focused on clinical trials and new interventions to improve health outcomes. A current priority for me is expanding the body of work we do to look at emerging/future health conditions that will be of global importance over the next few decades. We are also looking for innovative and efficient ways to undertake our clinical trials so they will have the greatest impact for the greatest amount of people worldwide. I think another real focus as we do those clinical trials and research studies is how can we decarbonise our research? How can we have less of an impact from a planetary health perspective? These are my big priorities at the moment.
You’re also a practising cardiologist – was that a specific career choice you made, to maintain involvement with patients in parallel to your role in research?
Absolutely, my patients are why I do what I do. Caring for patients and seeing people every day who have conditions that don’t have proven interventions to improve their outcomes really inspires me to do research. I not only have the opportunity to improve outcomes for the patient in front of me, but to positively impact on the health outcomes of thousands or potentially millions worldwide. My clinical work and my research work complement each other, and they also keep things really interesting.
A current priority for me is expanding the body of work we do to look at emerging/future health conditions that will be of global importance over the next few decades. We are also looking for innovative and efficient ways to undertake our clinical trials so they will have the greatest impact for the greatest amount of people worldwide
How did your research lead you into the diabetes field?
Diabetes is a global pandemic that is only worsening, and it disproportionally affects people in low- and middle-income countries. I’m very passionate about improving outcomes equitably across the globe and I believe I can do this with my research. Diabetes is a huge driver of cardiovascular diseases, so by improving the treatment of diabetes we can reduce the negative consequences, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and kidney failure.
What is the biggest challenge facing patients with type 2 diabetes?
I think the challenge for patients with diabetes is the complications they face – the high burden of cardiovascular and kidney disease that can arise because of diabetes. As clinicians and researchers we need to focus not just on rapid control of a patient’s diabetic/glycaemic status, but also on which therapies we can use, and what we can develop, that will improve their long term cardiovascular and kidney health.
My patients are why I do what I do. Caring for patients and seeing people every day who have conditions that don’t have proven interventions to improve their outcomes really inspires me to do research
You’re the principal investigator for George Medicines’ upcoming trial investigating its single pill, triple combination candidate, GMRx4, as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes. How is that project advancing?
It’s a really exciting study and wonderful working with the George Medicines team. We’re just at the start but it’s progressing really well. It’s nice because it brings together a diverse group of passionate and talented researchers and experts from across the globe who are all committed to the delivery of a high-quality trial and to finding new treatments for those with diabetes.
Finally, what are you most proud of having accomplished in your career to date?
One of my areas of research and clinical expertise is women’s cardiovascular disease. I have a Churchill fellowship in women’s cardiovascular disease and established Australia’s first ‘Women’s heart clinic’, which is a clinic focussed on the treatment of cardiovascular diseases specific to women. I’m proud of what we’ve done from a research perspective at the clinic, as well as how we have improved the clinical care pathways for women. It’s led to state-wide change in the way that we manage many of these conditions and I think it’s led to some new, exciting research programs in women’s cardiovascular disease. Complementing this work, at the George Institute we are embarking on a broader program based on gender specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease and improving outcomes, and that’s probably what I’m most proud of.