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Advancing the health of people who use drugs: hepatitis C and drug dependence (ASCEND)

ASCEND logo
Date Commenced:
01/2019
Expected Date of Completion:
12/2023
Project Supporters:

The ASCEND program is funded through a National Health and Medical Research Council Program Grant

Project Members: 
image - Michael Farrell 0
Director
Ph EA Tori Barnes: 02 9385 0292 / t.barnes@unsw.edu.au
image - Sarah Larney
Senior Lecturer
Ph +61 (2) 9385 0333
image - Briony Larance Square
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 9385 0333
image - Marianne Byrne
Clinical Trials Manager
Ph +61 (2) 9385 9984
Project Collaborators: External: 

Gregory Dore, Head Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program, Kirby Institute UNSW

Andrew Lloyd, Head Viral Immunology Systems Program, Kirby Institute UNSW

Jason Grebely, Senior Research Fellow, Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW 

Matthew Hickman, Head, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol

Michael Houghton, Director, Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute

Andrea Cox, Professor of Medicine and Oncology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Fabio Luciani, NHMRC Career Development Fellow, Viral Immunology Systems Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW

Rowena Bull, NHMRC Career Development Fellow, Viral Immunology Systems Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW

Rebecca McKetin, Senior Research Fellow, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

Adrian Dunlop, Clinical Director, Hunter New England Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programme

Rationale: 

The Investigators are undertaking a five year program grant seeking to enhance collaboration and bring together disciplines of viral hepatitis and drug dependence for mutual benefit. 

Aims: 

The ASCEND program aims to: 

  • Characterise morbidity and mortality among people with problematic drug use;
  • Enhance the effectiveness of drug dependence management; 
  • Evaluate strategies to eliminate hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs; and
  • Monitor trends in drug dependence and HCV burden in Australia. 
Design and Method: 

ASCEND activities include:

  • Data linkage studies for opioid and methamphetamine dependence
  • Data linkage studies for HCV
  • Buprenorphine depot clinical trials 
  • Integration of clinical practice and epidemiological research with Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in New and Emerging Drugs
  • Improved testing and treatment for community and prison-based people who inject drugs
  • Immunological studies for HCV reinfection
  • Phase II evaluation of candidate HCV vaccines
  • National registry of HCV direct acting antiviral outcomes and National Survey of HCV viremic prevalence in people who inject drugs
  • Geospatial analysis of administrative data
  • Mathematical modelling to support HCV elimination targeting and evaluation
Progress/Update: 

The inaugural ASCEND symposium focusing on the theme Public Health Interventions and Modelling was held in May 2019. Details of annual symposia will be posted as they become available. 

Benefits: 

The intended outcomes of the ASCEND program include:

  • Enhanced understanding of the contribution of both HCV and drug-related harm to morbidity and mortality among people with problematic drug use
  • Strategies to enable broader access and improved outcomes from highly curative HCV therapies for people who inject drugs in both the community and prison
  • Strategies to reduce HCV reinfection among people who inject drugs, including via HCV immunisation
  • Development of new modalities and delivery methods for drug dependence
Project Status: 
Current