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.
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.