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
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
"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
For further information contact
Penny Fannin, Strategic Communications
on +61 3 9345 2345,
0417 125 700
Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research