Flying the UKZN Flag High in Australia
It has only been a few weeks and yet there has been an overwhelming response of submissions since the Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Ncoza Dlova, launched the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine’s #ProudlyMedSchoolAlumnus social media campaign in October.
Every week, the campaign recognises and celebrates the Institution’s Medical alumni and their achievements both locally and internationally.
The campaign is instilling a strong sense of collegiality and camaraderie within the lifelong Medical fraternity. Brilliant stories are surfacing – a shining example being that of Professor Yuben Moodley who has made several seminal scientific discoveries that have led to world-class clinical trials. Today, he is a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Western Australia; Consultant Physician at Fiona Stanley Hospital; Senior Editor of Respirology (the flagship journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology); and Co-deputy Director and Head of Cell Biology at the Institute for Respiratory Health in Australia.
Following his undergraduate degree in Medicine, Moodley completed his Doctorate in Medicine at UKZN focusing on non-invasive markers of lung disease, highlighting the role of exhaled nitric oxide. His PhD at the University of Western Australia delineated novel signalling in the IL-6 pathway that has contributed to the development of STAT inhibitors in the treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF).
Moodley went on to conduct two world-first studies in cell therapy for pulmonary fibrosis. The first was a study on human amnion cells, published in the top ranked journal at the time, where his work was in the top 3% most cited worldwide and was used in 33 countries across 14 disciplines including medicine and pharmacology. ‘The study informed two workshop reports, including by the American Thoracic Society and 27 medical textbooks. It also led to a patent on treatment of chronic lung diseases and provided an evidence base for early clinical trials using these cells to treat children with bronchopulmonary dysplasia,’ Moodley said.
Also a world-first, Moodley’s study on the human umbilical cord MSC was in the top 2% most cited worldwide and used in 42 countries across 21 disciplines including nursing. The study informed a workshop report from the International Placenta Stem Cell Society and 33 medical textbooks. More than 25 clinical trials have now tested the stem cells Moodley first developed for the treatment of COVID-19 ventilated patients, with a highly cited 2022 review determining that it is safe and effective.
Moodley’s programme also conducted discovery work on phenotyping and identifying biomarkers for IPF. His phenotyping study was used in 38 countries, informed international interstitial lung diseases (ILD) guidelines, formation of two registries in Pakistan (2016) and Latin America (2022), and development of the Lung Foundation Australia (LFA) educational resources for patients and community partners. His team was the first to demonstrate specific circulating RNA in patients with progressive IPF and discovered circulatory biomarkers predicting IPF. It led to a paradigm shift as blood tests could now be used to select patients for treatment.
Moodley’s achievements are illustrious. His Phase I clinical trial using mesenchymal stromal cells in COPD patients is in the top 1% most cited and used in 20 countries. To date, he has won $9 million in competitive funding. Close to 120 of his publications have had international impact, including incorporation in guidelines of most Thoracic societies across the world, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health in their 2015 Clinical Guidance documents, and the Department of the Australian Prime Minister and Cabinet in the ATSI Health performance framework 2017.
Moodley is a chief investigator in the Centre for Research Excellence in Pulmonary Fibrosis and serves on the scientific advisory board of Roche and Boehringer Ingelheim as well as the steering committee for the Interstitial Lung Disease registry in Australia. He has been invited speaker to many countries including Japan and Saudi Arabia and to institutes including Harvard, Cambridge, University of California San Francisco, Yale and Imperial College London.
Learning about Moodley’s inspirational achievements breathes life into the #ProudlyMedSchoolAlumnus social media campaign. His narrative serves as a motivation for more “good news” articles that profile our Medical alumni to hit the press.
In the latest news, in 2023 Moodley has been invited by the American Thoracic Society to be on a select international panel tasked to determine the management of early lung changes discovered incidentally on CT scans.
Words: Lunga Memela