Pre-clinical trials are being planned on a treatment for human parainfluenza virus discovered by the Institute for Glycomics.
This treatment could be the first on the market to treat the virus, which causes lower respiratory infections, such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia or croup.
A team at the Institute lead by Director Mark von Itzstein has for the first time demonstrated how a protein associated with the surface of the virus, haemagglutinin-neuraminidase, engages specific sugars to allow the virus to spread and cause infection.
PhD candidate Larissa Dirr, who recently submitted her research on this project, said the team was able to develop an inhibitor that reduces the ability of the virus to be released from infected cells, therefore reducing infection and allowing the immune system to fight off the virus.
As a PhD student, Larissa’s role in this ground breaking research was to find out how this virus is released from infected cells.
“I structurally and functionally investigated this protein and discovered the mechanism of how the virus is released and as a team we designed inhibitors to block viral infection” she said.
“As there is currently no treatment or vaccine available against parainfluenza virus it is critical to find new strategies to combat the virus.”
“My thesis shows that we can use this information for the discovery of novel antiviral agents.”
Larissa was working as a pharmacist in Germany before she moved to the Gold Coast to complete her PhD in drug discovery.
She said a career as a research scientist is very rewarding and exciting and she encouraged young students to not neglect science as an important subject.
“It’s a very rewarding career because you see things first which no one has seen before,” she said.
“You can make a difference and improve the health of people or help to cure diseases.
“You’re also allowed the creative freedom to explore your ideas.”
This research team also involved researchers Dr Ibrahim El-Deeb from Egypt and Dr Patrice Guillon from France.
The Institute for Glycomics is a world leader in the study of glycans and carbohydrates (sugars) and how they behave in terms of disease prevention and cure.
“Australia continues to significantly benefit from the attraction of outstanding research talent from all over the world,” said Professor von Itzstein.
The Institute for Glycomics established its annual Glycomics Week during the Institute’s 10th anniversary in 2010.
The week aims to celebrate the Institute’s growing significant research successes, and the impact this research has in the world of infectious disease, cancer and vaccine and drug discovery. As well as acknowledge the invaluable assistance from the Institute’s local, national and international friends, donors and supporters.
World renowned scientific expert Dr Mario Pinto will hold a Public Lecture entitled “A Scientist’s Career- From Research to Administration” on Tuesday, 13 October at 5.30pm at the Institute for Glycomics Lecture Theatre (G26 4.09) at Griffith’s Gold Coast Campus.
The Glycomics Student Forum will also be held on Wednesday, 14 October with lectures from Dr Pinto and Dr Chun-Hung Lin from the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Academia Sinica in Taiwan at the Institute for Glycomics Lecture Theatre (G26 4.09) at Griffith’s Gold Coast Campus from 9am to 4.30pm. See the full Forum Program here.
The week will culminate with the Glycomics Gala dinner on 15 October at 6.30pm at the RACV Royal Pines.