The associate dean of Westmead Clinical School has joined a small but esteemed group to receive the Priscilla Kincaid-Smith Medal.
Professor David Harris was presented the medal for his contribution to kidney disease research by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, at Westmead Hospital on Thursday.
The award is Kidney Health Australia’s highest scientific accolade, and has been given to only six others.
Professor Harris said he felt very honoured to receive the award.
‘‘The award is only given out every now and then, so I feel very happy about it,’’ he said.
He said Kincaid-Smith proved the link between analgesic powders and kidney disease, finding that a quarter of cases of the disease in the 1960’s and 70’s could be attributed to the headache medication.
‘‘She was probably one of the most respected and well recognised nephrologists in the world,’’ he said.
Professor Harris has been a nephrologist for 30 years.
His research includes the IDEAL trial, which involved 800 end-stage kidney disease patients in Australia and New Zealand.
‘‘The trial showed that there’s no advantage in starting dialysis early, so now around the world they start treatment late,’’ Professor Harris said.
‘‘I’ve basically had a mixed job doing clinical work with patients and research the whole of my career.’’
Professor Harris has also looked at DNA vaccination and other treatments to stop the progression of kidney disease.
‘‘That’s taking the genes of mediators — chemicals that attract inflamatory cells into the kidney or cause damage to tissue—that make the kidneys progress and using that as a vaccine,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve also been using cells that actually have protective properties that you can give to the animal that will actually go to the kidney and protect the kidney against damage — that’s not too far away from use in humans.
‘‘Those sorts of treatments are already being used to a limited extent in other sorts of diseases.’’
Professor Harris said diabetes was responsible for about 30percent of chronic kidney disease cases in Australia.
Inflammation of the kidneys and high blood pressure were the next most common causes of the disease.
‘‘With progressive kidney disease, all components of the kidney become scarred and you get a build up of inflammatory cells in the kidney,’’ he said.
‘‘A kidney disease that is going to affect you long term has to affect both kidneys.’’