HIV drug research boosted by UQ Foundation

23 Sep 2004

A promising lead in developing anti viral drugs with the potential to fight human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) has been boosted by a University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award.

The $50,000 award announced yesterday (23/9/04) enables Institute for Molecular Science's Dr Norelle Daly to determine the molecular structure of retrocyclin, a molecule with the ability to protect human cells from HIV infection.

"Given the worldwide increase in the incidence of AIDS, there is enormous interest in identifying naturally occurring antiviral molecules," Dr Daly said.

"Additionally, retrocyclin also appears to protect cells from HSV infection, which is predicted to cost upwards of US$61 billion over the next 25 years.

"Determining the molecular structure is a vital step to understanding the mechanism of retrocyclin," she said.

Structural information will help direct further investigations into the potential of retrocyclin as an anti-viral agent.

"Mutants of retrocyclin do not demonstrate the activity of the naturally occurring molecule, underscoring the importance of knowing the three dimensional structure. 

"Not only is retrocyclin an important molecule for anti-HIV and HSV drugs it could also form the foundation of a new family of anti-viral drugs more generally," she said.

Dr Daly was recently awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Industry Fellowship and said this grant was an opportunity to broaden her research areas and develop collaborative projects with research teams in the United States.

Head of the laboratory, Professor David Craik said the grant was further recognition of Norelle's outstanding research over the last five years.

"Norelle's project fits well with the strategic direction of the IMB specifically in the research field of chemical and structural biology particularly at the intersection with mammalian development, variation and disease," he said.

"Developing new knowledge on a potentially valuable lead compound also presents an exciting opportunity for commercialisation."


Media for more information contact Russell Griggs (07 3346 2134)