In a career highlight, Afolabi Akanbi recently had the opportunity to present his research at an international conference as well as at a local research workshop. As he approaches the end of his PhD studies with GMRF, he shares his journey from student to medical researcher.

Born in Nigeria, Afolabi moved to Australia with his family in 2009. He describes himself as a problem-solver and critical thinker – ideal attributes for a career in medical research.

Having studied engineering at The University of New South Wales, Afolabi’s passion for medical research and strong desire to make a positive impact led him to undertake his PhD through The University of Queensland and Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) in 2019.

“I am driven by the opportunity to explore the unknown and contribute to discoveries that have the potential to improve peoples’ health outcomes,” says Afolabi.

As part of his PhD studies at GMRF, Afolabi has been exploring therapeutic options for people suffering from metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), which affects approximately 30% of the global adult population and has emerged as one of the leading causes of advanced liver disease.

Currently, therapeutic options for MAFLD are limited, with lifestyle modifications being the primary treatment approach.

“Individuals with haemochromatosis (a genetic iron overload condition) are more susceptible to developing MAFLD. Hence, our project aims to investigate the therapeutic potential of a novel drug that would also be beneficial for individuals with haemochromatosis,” says Afolabi.

“Our research project holds significant promise for future clinical translation and has the potential to make a substantial impact in the field.”

Afolabi says one of the most exciting aspects of his work is the opportunity to perform cutting-edge medical research with real-world applications.

“As a medical researcher, I delve into the complexities of human health and contribute to addressing pressing medical challenges. The prospect of my research findings leading to enhanced treatments and interventions for patients is immensely motivating,” Afolabi says.

“It instils a profound sense of purpose and excitement, propelling me forward at every stage of the research process. Knowing that my work could potentially make a positive impact on peoples’s lives fills me with a deep sense of fulfillment and dedication to my chosen field.”

Under the supervision of GMRF’s Director of Research, Professor Darrell Crawford and researcher, Dr Kim Bridle, Afolabi was given the opportunity to learn and grow at GMRF.

“Darrell is an expert in the field, he is calm natured and wants everyone to succeed in the lab. Kim also has been in the field for years and knows the standards for international research, so we design our experiments based on that,” Afolabi said.

“Their expertise and knowledge were invaluable in shaping the direction of my research and ensuring that it remained relevant to real-world medical challenges.”

Recently Afolabi had the exciting opportunity to present his research to a national audience.

“I was thrilled to present my research on ‘Iron and Hepcidin Activation of Inflammatory Pathways in Adipocytes’ at the BIOIRON2023 conference. Additionally, I was honoured to deliver an oral presentation at the GESA (Gastroenterology Society of Australia) Research Workshop.”

“Presenting at these events was an incredible experience, and I am grateful for the chance to share my work with fellow researchers and experts in the field.”

Afolabi continues to work at GMRF to conduct experiments outlined as future work in his thesis.  He aspires to raise more awareness and publish his research findings in peer-reviewed journals to share valuable insights and make a meaningful contribution to the field.

“Overall, my PhD experience with GMRF has been an incredible journey that’s significantly contributed to my personal and professional growth. I am incredibly grateful for the supportive environment, making my PhD journey a truly fulfilling and rewarding one.”