Dr Rob Center
Centre for Biomedical Research
+61 3 8506 2342
"I am collaborating with affinity BIO in a project to enhance their platform technology for producing neutralizing antibodies. This work was initially funded by a VIIN Industry Alliance grant. Viral outbreaks are managed by identifying and characterizing the virus responsible, followed by design and production of a vaccine. However, as a first-line response to a rapidly spreading viral disease, vaccines are ineffective because of the production time needed. However, rapidly-produced neutralizing antibodies against emerging viral diseases could be used to significantly reduce illness and death during an emergency. affinity BIO is a Melbourne-based biotech company that has developed their proprietary Retained Display (ReD) platform technology capable of ultra-rapid antibody discovery. The ReD technology can identify antibodies against a specific target in a matter of days. The project is aimed at developing a library of antibodies which stop viral activity by binding to key proteins on a viral surface and prevent the virus from infecting the host’s target cells. I will contribute my expertise in virology to enable examination of the library’s usefulness against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Highly-specific, high-affinity neutralizing antibodies against HIV could be used to improve microbicides and therapeutics against this virus. "
Research ActivitiesThe current major focus of my work is the development of vaccines for HIV and HCV. We aim to generate protective antibodies that can bind to the HIV Env protein and block target-cell recognition and/or viral entry and subsequent infection. The functional HIV Env protein is a trimer, and the adoption of trimeric structure modulates the way the human immune system recognizes the Env protein. The quaternary structure is also critical for the immunogenicity of the HCV E2 protein, which is our HCV vaccine target. We are developing techniques for the efficient expression and purification of Env and E2 oligomers for testing as vaccines. A hurdle to both vaccines is the variability of many parts of the Env and E2 between different viral strains. By engineering these proteins to preferentially expose the less variable regions we aim to generate antibodies capable of blocking infection caused by diverse viral isolates. I am also involved in basic research studies focusing on the structure and function of the Env and E2 proteins.
CollaborationsDr Charani Ranasinghe, Australian National University
Dr Mireille Lahoud, Burnet Institute
Dr Irina Caminschi, Burnet Institute
Prof Stephen Kent
Dr Fasseli Coulibaly
Dr Matthew Parsons
Dr Wendy Winnall
Dr Ben Keifel
Dr Matt Beasley