H5N1 bird flu forum to tackle future epidemics

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Summary media release information

01 November 2012
NHMRC Media Release
Contact for further information: 
NHMRC Media Team: David Cooper, 0422 008 512

Leading H5N1 bird flu experts will meet today to discuss research to assist the Asia Pacific region’s response to future epidemics. The forum has been organised by the National Health and Medical Research Council. 

Jointly hosted with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the forum will hear from leading H5N1 bird flu experts on the need for greater awareness of public policy, improved response to future pandemics and new innovations in vaccine development.

“Australia boasts some outstanding achievements in virology and influenza research, however we need to remain vigilant and build on recent H5N1 research and consider the implications for public health and health policy,” NHMRC CEO, Professor Warwick Anderson said.

NHMRC is the leading funding body of human infectious disease research in Australia, and in the last 10 years has allocated $8.5 million to H5N1 research across 39 grants.

At the forum Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tokyo, will discuss his research findings that certain genetic alterations in H5N1 increase transmissibility in animal models. Professor Derek Smith, University of Cambridge, will discuss the potential for H5N1 to mutate and adapt to other hosts.

NHMRC H5N1 research

In 2006, NHMRC funded a H5N1 Urgent Call for Research (UCR). This research responded to a potential avian influenza-induced pandemic.

Examples of the NHMRC research grants include:

Rapid Point-of-Care detection of Avian Influenza virus using Ion-Channel Switch Biosensor
University of Adelaide
Dr Tuckweng Kok
NHMRC funding: $425,400

Dr Kok developed a specific monoclonal antibody to H5N1 using inactivated virus. This monoclonal antibody will be used in the construction of a H5N1-specific biosensor assay to detect Bird Flu.

Molecular basis of potential resistance of neuraminidase inhibitors
St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research
Professor Michael Parker
NHMRC funding: $87,250

Professor Parker developed a new method to produce large scale quantities of an essential avian flu protein, Neuraminidase 1 (N1), without the need to use live virus at any stage. This protein has been made into crystals – the first step to determining the detailed three-dimensional atomic structure of N1.

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