HIV & Molecular Virology

Hon. Associate Professor David Harrich

Senior Research Fellow / Group Leader

The HIV and Molecular Virology Laboratory analyses human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication. This includes the process by which HIV is able to convert its genetic material composed of RNA into a form compatible with human DNA. Our focus is the discovery of key viral or cellular molecules required for HIV to grow, and then to target their action so that HIV growth can be effectively blocked. The lab is also interested and dengue and SARS-CoV-2 virus replication. Our dengue and SARS virus research includes development of novel inhibitors called defective interfering particles.


  • developing an innovative therapeutic agent to treat dengue infection. The approach is based on defective interfering particles or DIPs, which are able to robustly inhibit dengue virus infections. DIPs represent a novel approach for developing an anti-viral for dengue infection because they are a specific and effective
  • developing a novel anti-SARS-CoV-2 agent that can parasitise SARS-CoV-2 virus to reduce its replication, transmission and pathogenicity. This potential antiviral agent is called viral defective interfering RNA that are derived from the virus itself
  • development of a new class of HIV-1 antiretroviral drug. The HIV polymerase, reverse transcriptase (RT), directly and strongly binds to a cellular protein called eEF1A. Our research identified novel drugs that inhibited virus growth, including some drug-resistant HIV, by blocking the RT interaction with eEF1A. This project will discover how they bind and this will inform the discovery of new and better drugs for HIV. This is important as levels of pretreatment resistance to widely used antiviral treatment is a growing problem
  • central nervous system (CNS) targeted antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART has reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV-1 (HIV) infection. However, ART does not cure HIV and individuals on ART develop pathologies, including the CNS dysfunction. Due to the unique structure of the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), some antiretroviral drugs have restricted entry or penetrance into the CNS that contributes to low levels of HIV replication in the CNS of people living with HIV. This project will adapt an advanced nanoparticle platform to effectively deliver antiretroviral drugs to the CNS by crossing over the BBB in order to improve inhibition of HIV replication in the CNS
  • development of a vaginally administered anti-HIV microbiside nanosystem. Strategies to prevent sexual mucosal transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) are urgently needed to stop the growth of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic and ultimately bring it to an end. Vaginal microbicides constitute a promising strategy for topical pre-exposure This project investigates a novel vaginal nanocarrier system to deliver the HIV reverse transcriptase inhibitors as microbicides

Internal Collaborators

External Collaborators

  • Dr Li Li, UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu, UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Wellcome Trust
  • QIMR Berghofer
  • Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Research