Burnet Institute research into HIV is set to assume greater significance with the creation of a new laboratory for HIV Immunometabolism headed by Dr Clovis Palmer.
The Palmer Laboratory, within the Centre for Biomedical Research, will focus on the metabolic defects of immune cells in patients who are infected with HIV.
Nutrient uptake and utilisation by immune cells is important because these cells require energy to fight against HIV infection.
Additionally some cells harbour the virus and remain in the body for decades.
These cells are called HIV reservoirs and Dr Palmer is researching ways to starve them as a potential strategy to eradicate HIV from the body.
“I want to prioritise HIV, the search for a cure and disease progression,” Dr Palmer said.
“Understanding how the HIV reservoir is established and how you can deplete it using novel approaches is an area of interest.
“There’s a focus at the moment on activating the virus or waking it up then killing it, but my approach is to find ways to starve the reservoir so there’s no room available for the virus to survive.”
The link between HIV and ageing is another of Dr Palmer’s fields of interest.
“People living with HIV infection, even though they may have a normal immune cell count and undetectable viral load, they age earlier, they have age-associated diseases – cardiovascular, renal dysfunction.
“Understanding why this occurs and finding ways to make people with HIV age as well as healthy ageing people, that would be good.”
Dr Palmer said he was delighted and honoured to manage his own laboratory.
“You’re never on your own in science, but now that it’s official it’s a nice progression to feel like you can follow your passions, and it will give me the opportunity to expand my work,” he said.
“It’s more than just a job, it’s something that I’m inspired to do, to see what I can give.
“Hopefully I can make a contribution, to do good science, and that will speak for itself.”