A Western Australian health researcher investigating the possibility of using an antibody to trigger natural immune responses to fight human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is one of 131 researchers who will share about $6 million in State Government research funding.
Announcing round 18 of the annual Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund (MHRIF) grants, Health Minister Kim Hames said the work of Royal Perth Hospital immunologist
Martyn French could lead to a breakthrough in treatment for people with HIV.
“Professor French and his colleagues are looking at ways to stimulate the body’s own system to produce antibodies that fight the HIV virus,” Dr Hames said.
“While still in its early stages, this is groundbreaking research. This antibody is unlike others previously investigated by HIV researchers – this one indirectly activates cells to produce virus-fighting molecules.”
The Minister said HIV continued to be a major health problem worldwide and while drugs known as antiretrovirals had proven themselves effective in controlling HIV infection, they had their drawbacks.
“Apart from only controlling the virus for the duration they’re taken, these drugs do not eradicate HIV. The persistent virus may result in inflammation that contributes to other serious health issues like coronary artery disease, osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease,” he said.
“Professor French and his team are trying to determine whether certain HIV vaccines in development could be used to trigger a proliferation of the antibodies that activate immune cells.”
The grant for Professor French will be used to purchase specialist laboratory equipment.
Dr Hames said the State Government was proud to support research that had the potential to make such a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing.
The MHRIF was established in 1997 to promote excellence in medical and health research in Western Australia by providing high-performing researchers with financial support to meet the day-to-day infrastructure costs associated with their projects.