Friday, February 13, 2009

Darwins Illness was Helicobacter Pylori

It is almost midnight on 12th of February and I am writing from Orebro Sweden so I have one more hour before it is midnight GMT. Today was the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday. One aspect of Darwin's life which has not really been analysed much in recnt years is the cause of his illness - a type of "nervous dyspepsia" according to his quack phyician Dr Gully at Malvern in 1849. In brief, Darwin spent most of his life with a gastric complaint, complaining of nausea and stomach pain. Like almost everyone in Victorian England, and the rest of the world, Charles Darwin most likely carried Helicobacter. Of people with Helicobacter, 10% have chronic peptic ulcer in their lifetime and maybe an equal percentage have chronic dyspepsia. I will elaborate more later - and try to have a short paper published on this - which so far has been rejected. Suffice it to say - the origin of the species which troubled Darwin was Helicobacter. End of Story!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What's Happening 2009

My new year resolution is to make some blog entries this year.
  1. My biotech company (Ondek) is developing new vaccines based on the Helicobacter bug. They clone DNA from influenza into H.pylori so that you can be vaccinated against the 'flu by drinking H.pylori. The picture below shows what we expect to achieve. It links you to the Ondek web site.
  2. At the University of Western Australia, Professor Geoff Shellam and I have started The Marshall Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Training. You can do a master's course in infectious disease - with various levels of intensity - over one or two years.
  3. Since 1996, Dr Warren and I have been Western Australia's Ambassadors for Life Sciences and our Nobel activities are managed from The Western Australian Office of the Nobel Laureates. Our scheduled activities are usually managed from links on that site. Our international travel is usually arranged about a year in advance.
  4. I still see patients at Gastroenterology within Sir Charles Gairdner hospital. Virtually all my patients generously assist with clinical reasearch projects. These vary from trials of new antibiotic treatments to vaccine research. It is interesting and usually quite easy, but time consuming. My University office arranges this activity and I am assisted by several research assistants who help manage the communications which arrive through the H.pylori Research Laboratory.
  5. I try to keep fit by looking after a small farm at Gingin (200 acres of bushland mostly) which is 70 km northeast of Perth. We have some grape vines and may make a tub of wine some day. The location is near and is in the picture from a 20km height view in Google earth if you want to fly there.
  6. I like to spend time with my family who are located in Perth (Luke, Carina, Lorian and Rigel), Melbourne (Bronwyn, Troy, Paige and Amelia), Peoria Ill (Caroline and Paul) and London (Jessica and Nick).
  7. My hobbies are computers and electronics, internet, digital photography and anything technical. The books I read recently are "Darwin and the Barnacle" (Rebecca Stott), "Measuring the World" Daniel Kehlmann, "Old Time Radios! Restoration and Repair" Joseph Carr, "Understanding Bioinformatics" Zvelebil and Baum. I also listen to the books I don't have time to carry around or the strength to hold up. A couple of favourites are "Relativity 1916" Albert Einstein (Librivox) and "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson (Audible). I subscribe to "The New Yorker", "Silicon Chip", "Scientific American". I have on-line subscriptions to "The West Australian" and "The Australian". It seems a lot but actually, I don't read all that much.
  8. This year I will attend or speak at conferences in Sweden, USA, Spain, India, China,UK, Singapore and some others which slip my mind at present.
  9. Things I want to accomplish this year are... hmmmm, it seems that everything I want to accomplish takes at least 2 years. Maybe, just trying to accomplish something, is most of the fun. Once it's done the novelty wears off so quickly.