Deakin University researcher Dr Olivia Dean's depression treatment research could ultimately support prevention of the illness but she says she primarily derives her motivation from the immediate impact she can have on the psychiatric disorders she investigates.
"For people that have these disorders, prevention isn't going to be something they're interested in because it's too late for that now," says Dean. "While I think prevention should absolutely be the ultimate goal in future, we do need to be mindful of the people who already have the disorders.
"We want the best outcomes for them."
Dean is a senior lecturer in medical science at Deakin University's school of medicine.
She heads the clinical trial division of Deakin's Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT).
The research centre, based at Barwon Health in Geelong, investigates patterns of chronic disease, risk factors and novel therapies for psychiatric, musculoskeletal and metabolic disorders.
As director of the division, Dean leads clinical trials of novel therapies for psychiatric disorders.
This October, she was also awarded a fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council, in support of her research into new, biologically-based treatments for people with depression.
"The calibre of research in Australia is really high, so it's rewarding to have received a fellowship, given that you're competing against some brilliant minds," says Dean.
Dean became senior lecturer in medical science at Deakin at the beginning of 2017. Since she began her research career about 15 years ago, she has held a variety of research roles at the University of Melbourne and Deakin.
She is also chairwoman of the Australasian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders and she recently teamed with researchers to trial the impact of an antibiotic – primarily used to treat acne – on major depression.
She is also undertaking a clinical trial testing the rind of mangosteen (a tropical fruit) as a treatment for depressive symptoms.
The fellowship will help enable her to continue the advancement of her research and potentially benefit the next generation of antidepressant agents.
"In a year's time we'd want to see some of the studies we have running come to fruition. We're doing a lot of work looking at blood samples and the biology for factors that might contribute to some of these disorders."
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