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Pellegrini wins top award for infectious disease research

28 May 2010 - Infectious diseases specialist Dr Marc Pellegrini from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will today receive the Frank Fenner Award from the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, recognising Dr Pellegrini's efforts to understand human responses to chronic infections.

Dr Pellegrini is a laboratory head in the institute's Infection and Immunity division and an infectious disease clinician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. His research focuses on HIV and tuberculosis, and how the human immune system responds to these infections.

The president of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, Associate Professor Thomas Gottlieb, said the Frank Fenner Award was the society's most prestigious award and recognised excellence in research - in originality, in scientific rigour and in relevance.

"The award honours Professor Frank Fenner, the society's patron, who made an outstanding contribution internationally to understanding and control of viral diseases," Dr Gottlieb said.

"Marc Pellegrini's research clearly follows in Professor Fenner's footsteps, and is helping to further our understanding of the human immune response and how certain factors such as the protein IL-7 influence the control of chronic infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. These are important studies that will open doors to future therapeutic advances in the management of infectious diseases."

Dr Pellegrini said he was honoured to receive the Frank Fenner award. "Professor Fenner is recognised as overseeing the eradication of smallpox and controlling Australia's rabbit population with the myxoma virus," Dr Pellegrini said. "It's humbling to be associated with such a great virologist."

Dr Pellegrini hopes that by studying how the human immune system responds to persistent infections, particularly how cell signaling pathways regulate immunity, he will be able to eradicate chronic infections.

"Chronic viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis C and B and bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the cause of tuberculosis) represent an enormous global health threat," Dr Pellegrini said. "Our immune system, which is successful in eliminating a huge array of pathogens, fails to eradicate these persistent organisms.

"Quite often we try to eradicate these infections by targeting the virus or bacterium that causes them," Dr Pellegrini said. "I want to investigate wiping out these infections by developing therapies that target the host immune system, rather than the pathogen, possibly by making the human immune system more able to clear these infections."

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For further information contact
Penny Fannin, Strategic Communications
Manager,
on +61 3 9345 2345,
0417 125 700
or fannin@wehi.edu.au.

Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
http://www.wehi.edu.au/uploads/pellegrini_fenner_award.pdf


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