Scholarship advances herbal research and safety

6 October 2023

In an exciting collaboration, NICM Health Research Institute (NICM HRI), in partnership with UnityHealth, is set to support a PhD scholarship project aimed at advancing research into Chinese herbal medicine interactions. This initiative seeks to further enhance UnityHealth’s online drug-herb interaction database available on IMgateway.

Funding for this project is provided by the Australian Government Department of Education, UnityHealth, and Western Sydney University's Graduate Research School as part of the 2023 National Industry PhD Program - Industry Linked Postgraduate. The  National Industry PhD Program is designed to support PhD candidates to undertake industry-focused research projects, equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively translate university research into commercialisation outcomes. Graduates of this program will be well-prepared to work at the interface of research and industry.

The primary objective of the new PhD project is to advance IMgateway’s interaction database as a digital tool for healthcare and integrative medicine, with a specific focus on improving health outcomes and offering clinical guidance regarding the use of Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with prescription drugs. The IMgateway platform will provide easy access to reliable information on the integrative use of Chinese herbs, benefiting healthcare professionals, industry, customers, and the public across Asian Pacific countries.

Dr Phoebe (Xian) Zhou, project lead and PhD supervisor at NICM HRI, expressed the significance of this initiative.

“The scholarship will support an excellent PhD candidate to work in advancing the development of the interaction database and making this available to more people for better health and wellbeing,” she said.

"This database is designed to save precious time for busy healthcare professionals, allowing them to make informed decisions for their patients with up-to-date scientific information.”

The project team at NICM HRI includes Dr Phoebe Zhou, Professor Dennis Chang, Professor Chun Guang Li and Professor Gerald Muench.

Currently, the IMgateway interactions database has also been integrated into a comprehensive drug-reference database accessible to thousands of GPs and pharmacists throughout Australia. With the potential to expand its reach to 2 million healthcare professionals across 16 Asian Pacific countries. This online subscription platform is designed to improve patient safety, prevent adverse drug events, and serve as a valuable resource for healthcare providers, researchers, and patients. The platform also holds the promise of connecting consumers directly with evidence-based information accessed by their healthcare professionals, particularly benefiting those with limited access to clinics or residing in rural areas.

The long-standing partnership between UnityHealth and NICM HRI, created through previous research projects, including the initial expansion of the IMgateway database to include Chinese herb-drug/nutritional supplement interactions in 2017, has led to the development of the PhD project.

This new PhD scholarship opportunity will support one PhD candidate to assess the herb-drug interaction assessment guidelines, further expanding the IMgateway interactions database, as well as conducting laboratory experiments to improve the scientific evidence supporting the database. Additionally, the PhD candidate will collaborate with UnityHealth and key stakeholders to enhance the user experience of the database.

Applications for this scholarship close on 30 November 2023.