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HIV/AIDS research at QIMR

HIV continues to ravage the world and there is still no cure. More than 30 million men, women and children have died from AIDS. AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. More than 40 million people are living with HIV. Nearly all will die from AIDS-related complications within the next two decades. An estimated 5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2003.

“Current HIV therapy known as HAART therapy is effective, but expensive and thus not available to the vast majority of people infected with HIV. Furthermore, the rapid ability of the virus to mutate has resulted in the development of viruses that are resistant to several anti-HIV drugs,” said Dr Andreas Suhrbier, from the Immunovirology Laboratory at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR).

Despite enormous international efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, the current state of progress might be viewed as encouraging, but still has a very large way to go before an effective vaccine is globally available.

Thus QIMR has recently appointed Dr David Harrich to bolster its commitment to HIV research. QIMR has this year been extremely successful in being awarded competitive research funding in collaboration with Australian and international groups for its HIV research. Two main areas have been targeted, the development of an HIV vaccine based on patented Kunjin replicon technology and the search for new HIV drug targets.

Preclinical vaccine trials for HIV are to begin this year in collaboration with the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis, and HIV drug research at QIMR is currently being assessed for commercial development.

“To defeat a massive global health problem such as HIV/AIDS requires national and international collaboration, to which QIMR has been committed for several years. QIMR’s expertise in immunology and virology, combined with our recent successes should enable significant progress to be made,” said Dr Harrich.