Skip to content Skip to global navigation Skip to main navigation Skip to sub navigation Skip to search
NHMRC

Funding to tackle the human health effects of Hendra Virus

Summary media release information

Date: 
02 June 2012
Type: 
Ministerial Media Release
Contact for further information: 
David Cooper 02 6217 9121 or 0422 008 512

New funding of $3 million for eight projects will enable leading scientists to conduct critical research into the Hendra virus, following a fresh outbreak in Queensland.

Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek said the research aimed to bring about a better understanding of the virus, the development of management procedures and improved patient treatments.

“The Government is committed to strengthening Australia’s biosecurity defences by funding quality scientific research that helps to protect the nation against Hendra virus.”

Three grants totalling $1.6M will examine immunological responses to exposure to the Hendra virus, creating knowledge about how host organisms react to the virus.

Five grants totalling $1.4M will support research into possible diagnostic markers, vaccines and antiviral drug targets.

Ms Plibersek said the funding as part of an overall $12 million collaborative effort between the Commonwealth, NSW and Queensland governments.

Today’s announcement follows a recent Urgent Call for Research by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The council identified areas for research and subjected the grant applicants to rigorous review with eight of the best proposals having immediate access to funding.  

“The call for research has been highly effective in recruiting the best research proposals to increase the body of knowledge about human health issues related to Hendra virus,” NHMRC Chief Executive Officer Professor Warwick Anderson said.

NHMRC is encouraging ongoing engagement by the scientific community. Next week, NHMRC and the Asia-Pacific Congress of Medical Virology are holding a workshop on Henipaviruses in Adelaide. Recent developments on Hendra and Nipah virus infections and their control will be reviewed.

Further information on the Adelaide workshop: http://sapmea.asn.au/conventions/apcmv2012/index.html

ATTACHMENT A
 

Research: immunological responses to exposure

Research Title:
Understanding pathogenicity and immunity in an encephalitic mouse model of Hendra virus infection
Researcher:
Doctor John Stambas, Deakin University
Funding amount:
$562,350

Our understanding of Hendra virus infection and immunity is extremely limited and has been hampered by a lack of appropriate animal models of disease and reagents. This Project will employ a newly-established mouse model to study encephalitis, the most life-threatening manifestation of this infection. We will use unique, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a plethora of mouse-specific reagents to investigate the mechanisms involved in regulating the host response to infection.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Research Title:
Can the bat immune response to Hendra inform drug and vaccine development in other species?
Researcher:
Associate Professor Anthony Purcell, Monash University
Funding amount:
$637,020

We will examine why bats can be infected with Hendra virus with no apparent symptoms, yet the virus causes severe disease in other mammals including humans. We will examine the innate immune response towards the virus in the natural host (fruit bats), horses and humans. In addition to the innate immune response we will also examine the adaptive immune response in bats and humans. We hope this information can be used to design new drugs or vaccines to Hendra virus.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Research Title:
Identification of viral-cellular interacting factors for an in-depth understanding of the Hendra virus life cycle and pathogenesis
Researcher:
Associate Professor Hans Netter, Monash University
Funding amount:
$368,510

Hendra virus is an emerging pathogen indigenous to fruit bats. Hendra virus is associated with limited outbreaks with high mortality in domesticated animals and humans. To advance the understanding of Hendra virus-related pathogenesis, we will perform comparative studies in bat and human cell lines to recognise differences in virus-host cell interactions leading to a comprehensive understanding of the Hendra virus life cycle and pathogenesis.


Research: vaccine options

Research Title:
New Hendra virus treatments
Researcher:
Associate Professor Nigel McMillan, Griffith University
Funding amount:
$197,450

Hendra virus outbreaks have become frequent and 7 human cases have been reported, this has resulted in 4 deaths. Researchers at Griffith University and the CSIRO have developed a new treatment that attacks the virus by turning off the viral genes at the site of infection. The plan is to treat patients soon after infection to slow or stop the virus and allow patients to recover naturally from this highly lethal disease.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Research Title:
Safety assessment of an anti-Hendra virus antibody in humans
Researcher:
Doctor Geoffrey Playford, University of Queensland
Funding amount:
$400,000

Hendra virus infection in humans is a serious, and often fatal, disease.  No cure exists for Hendra infection and existing treatments are ineffective. Recently, a human monoclonal antibody has shown great promise in protecting animals from developing the disease. This project aims to perform preclinical safety testing and a Phase I clinical trial to establish the safety profile of this antibody such that it can be used to prevent Hendra infection in humans exposed to the disease.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Research Title:
Hendra virus vaccine
Researcher:
Professor Geoffrey Pietersz, Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health
Funding amount:
$189,917

Hendra virus cause a disease transmitted from bats to horses which in turn infect humans and other horses. There are no drugs or vaccines for Hendra virus. Since humans are infected by inhalation, a vaccine that can generate antibody in the lung and protect from infection will be ideal. We have found that a natural sugar called mannan used with virus proteins and administered via the nostrils to generate such responses. In this project we will prepare this vaccine and use it in a mouse model of Hendra virus infection to see if it can protect the mice.

Research: virus replication

Research Title:
Structural studies of Hendra virus replication
Researcher:
Doctor Fasseli Coulibaly, Monash University
Funding amount:
$301,175

To understand how Hendra virus multiplies in infected cells, we will investigate the structure of its replicative machinery. This will provide the basis for rational drug design increasing Australia’s preparedness against the emergence of Hendra-like viruses.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Research: diagnostic markers

Research Title:
Defining the role of microRNAs in human Hendra virus infections
Researcher:
Doctor Cameron Stewart, CSIRO Division of Livestock Industries
Funding amount:
$346,064

This project aims to improve the medical management of people infected with Hendra virus by defining potential therapeutic windows for treatment with antiviral strategies. The project involves the study of microRNAs, a class of small ribonucleic acid molecules that regulate biological processes in eukaryotes. We will determine the role of microRNAs in the Hendra virus infection process in humans, and their application as diagnostic markers of Hendra virus infection.

Page last updated on 4 June 2012