Vale Dr Hitesh Peshavariya (1976-2017)
One of CERA’s brightest up-and-coming researchers, Dr Hitesh Peshavariya passed away suddenly on Saturday 7 October, to the immense shock and sadness of his family, friends and workmates in Australia and overseas.
Principal Researcher and Head of the Oxidant Signalling group, Dr Peshavariya was a biochemist with over 15 years’ experience in the fields of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and pharmacology.
He joined CERA in 2011, working with his mentor Professor Greg Dusting to establish CERA’s Cytoprotection Pharmacology unit. In 2016, he was awarded a prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant to investigate a non-cytotoxic approach to reducing ocular fibrosis following glaucoma surgery.
This led to the establishment of an independent research group and Hitesh was appointed its Principal Investigator.
Although he began his research career studying oxidant signalling in the brain and heart, Hitesh found a new passion at CERA looking at the impact of oxidative stress in the eye. In particular, he was researching a way to prevent scar formation in the eye after glaucoma surgery and a potential role for ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in protecting against age-related macular degeneration.
Professor Greg Dusting reflected on his 13-year collaboration with Hitesh:
“After arriving in Australia, Hitesh came to see me at the Florey with some data in hand, looking to start a PhD. He did a fantastic PhD with me through the Centre for Neuroscience and interestingly, we picked Ian Trounce to help us, without knowing that we would all end up together at CERA a decade later. Hitesh and I moved to the O’Brien Institute and our research focused on the heart for a number of years.
“Soon, Hitesh started coming up with other ideas. It was remarkable really at that early stage in his research career, he was already coming up with new ideas. We moved to CERA in 2011, after collaborating with Peter van Wijngaarden on a project looking at blood vessels in the eye.
“Hitesh’s death is a great loss, his career was right on the threshold, in fact he had just crossed it. He was not just generating new ideas but was translating them into successful grant applications and had interest from commercial partners as well. His research interests were diversifying; including a drug that he wanted to develop himself and working with Jonathan Crowston in the fibrosis and glaucoma field.
“It’s a tough road for young researchers but he managed to find funding to keep himself going. He was very sharp in lots of ways. I knew when he was coming to me with a new idea because he would always have a cheeky look on his face and would sit down and start chattering away. Sometimes he’d get it completely wrong! We’d have great arguments, especially about the heart and how processes worked but then we’d go out and have a glass of red wine together. He was a great guy and his family and friends know that. I would say he was one of the best in the business.
“I suppose the lesson here, if there is one, is that you never know what’s around the corner. Personally, I would like to build on his legacy and finish some of the work he started here at CERA. But for now, it’s one day at a time.”
On behalf of the CERA Board, staff and students, Managing Director Professor Jonathan Crowston expressed his deepest condolences to Hitesh’s wife, and fellow CERA staff member, Manisha and their three young children. “Hitesh was a very talented researcher and a much-loved member of the CERA community. This is a devastating loss for all of us here at CERA and I extend my deepest sympathy to Hitesh’s family at this heart-breaking time,” said Professor Crowston.
A GoFundMe page has been setup to help support Hitesh’s family with funeral and other associated expenses. To donate, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-hiteshs-family