A National Institutes of Health grant will allow Monash University biomedical scientist Dr Di Yu to contribute to the search for a HIV cure.
Dr Yu, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, was awarded a Creative and Novel Ideas in HIV Research (CNIHR) grant at the world’s largest open scientific conference on HIV/AIDS held last month in Malaysia – the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013).
Dr Yu, Head of the Laboratory for Molecular Immunomodulation, received a grant co-funded by the International AIDS Society, worth US $300,000 over two years.
Dr Yu started the Molecular Immunomodulation Laboratory at Monash 2011. His lab investigates the molecular mechanisms of immune responses, particularly how the immune system can be harnessed to treat auto-immune diseases, infection and cancer.
The grant will allow Dr Yu to develop a drug, which he co-created with colleague Professor Charles Mackay, to boost the immune system and destroy virally infected cells.
“We propose a novel strategy for HIV cure by applying a new antibody to boost the activity of a protein found in human immune cells called Interleukin-21,” Dr Yu said.
“We hope that by targeting Interleukin-21, we will stimulate an immune response in patients to efficiently eliminate the infected CD4+ T cells.”
Dr Yu’s grant was one of 11 awarded in 2013 as part of a US $12.8 million contribution to fund research projects of promising early-stage researchers.
The project will be mentored by two HIV experts including Monash University’s Professor Sharon Lewin and Professor Alan Landay from Rush University in the US.