The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

People

Dr Renae Walsh

Dr Renae Walsh

Dr Renae Walsh

(03) 9342 9328 | [email protected]

Position:
Senior Medical Scientist
Theme(s):
Hepatitis
Discipline(s):
Public Health
Unit(s):
Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL)
Lab Group(s):
Walsh Group

Dr Renae Walsh is Senior Medical Scientist and Early Career Researcher within the division of Molecular Research and Development at Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL). Her scientific expertise is in the fields of virology and protein biochemistry. Renae’s research focuses on the molecular proteomics of hepatitis B virus (HBV). She investigates the roles of HBV proteins in chronic disease progression and cure, and translational research for the development of next generation diagnostic assays for reporting HBV vaccine escape and biomarkers for predicting treatment responses, with potential therapeutic applications to influence clinical outcome in chronic HBV.

  • Key Achievements
    • Renae completed her PhD at Monash University in 2006, and has since undertaken postdoctoral training at CSIRO and VIDRL with an interest in virology and protein engineering. She has received several grants and industry funding to support her research. Renae’s research achieved the discovery of a novel therapeutic antibody domain targeting the HBV precore protein, developed as an ‘intrabody’ to function inside infected cells to disrupt immune tolerance. Her most recent research achieved the development of a novel assay for the HBV surface antigen, which identifies viral fingerprints predictive of clinical response on therapy. 

    Projects
    • Renae Walsh Project A

      The HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) contains the major virus neutralisation domain and forms the basis of the HBV vaccine. HBsAg is a conformationally dynamic protein, and the HBsAg profile is vulnerable to structural alterations applied by divergent strains or variants (potential escape variants), and therapeutic or immune pressure. Renae’s group has developed a novel immunoassay to map HBsAg fingerprint using panels of monoclonal antibodies targeting HBsAg epitope domains. They are developing the clinical and diagnostic application of this novel HBsAg fingerprinting assay to define and report HBV vaccine efficacy and escape, and to predict HBsAg response on antiviral therapy.

    • Renae Walsh Project B

      HBV infection represents a global health issue, with more than one million deaths annually attributed to complications of chronic disease. HBsAg clearance and seroconversion to anti-HBs antibody is rarely achieved naturally or on treatment, but represents a functional cure for chronic HBV infection. Not all anti-HBs responses are equally functional, and the evolution of an effective broadly neutralising versus clearing anti-HBs antibody response during chronic infection is not clearly understood. Renae’s group uses a range of virological, serological, and biochemical approaches to isolate and identify potent clearance anti-HBs antibodies and characterise the anti-HBs response, target specificity and mechanism of viral clearance.     

    • Renae Walsh Project C

      Current HBV treatments supress viral replication, but fail to clear virus from infected cells. The ultimate treatment goal is hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) clearance or functional cure to reduce the risk of liver cancer. Few biomarkers reliably predict this outcome. Renae’s group have developed a novel assay that determines the HBsAg profile or fingerprint, which is influenced by immune (or antibody) recovery during treatment, to identify and report an HBsAg clearance profile (CP) predictive of surface protein clearance. They have partnered with several industry leaders to assess the effect of new HBV drugs in clinical trial to promote HBsAg clearance.

    Research Groups
    • Walsh Group

      Renae’s group studies key HBV proteins to predict clinical response during chronic disease towards understanding the interaction with/recognition by the host antibody response to clear infection, and how the antibody response might be enhanced to promote viral clearance and cure. 


      Lab Team

      • Rachel Hammond
        Medical Scientist/Research Assistant
      • Joshua Deerain
        Medical Scientist/Research Assistant