The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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


Research Projects

Project: RNA control of HIV latency

Purcell Group

Long-lived CD4+ T cells harbouring integrated copies of HIV proviral DNA stand as the barrier to sustained HIV remission without ongoing antiretroviral drug therapy. Multiple mechanisms restrict the viral gene expression needed for immune-detection and clearance. However, RNA transcription from the adjacent highly-active cellular gene reads-through into provirus, whereupon mRNA splicing and other mechanisms recombine HIV Tat RNA into mature cellular RNAs. This project studies these chimeric host-HIV mRNAs and investigates a folded RNA-element that underlies Tat coding RNA, its RNA-epigenetic modifications and the cellular protein binding partners that function to permit Tat-expression through a privileged IRES-translation pathway to regulate HIV-latency.

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information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Professor Damian Purcell

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Purcell Group

5 vacancies

Viral Infectious Diseases
Host Pathogens Interactions
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Global Health
Indigenous Health
Translational and Clinical Research

Professor Damian Purcell’s group investigates the HIV-1 and HTLV-1 human retroviruses that cause AIDS, leukaemia and inflammatory pathogenesis respectively. We study their genetic structure and gene expression with a focus on defining the mechanisms that control viral persistence and pathogenesis. We examine the molecular interplay of viral and host factors during viral infection and the innate and adaptive immune responses to viral infection. We use these molecular insights to develop new antiviral and curative therapeutics, preventive prophylactic vaccines and passive antibody microbicides and therapeutics. Some of these patented discoveries have been commercialised and we are assisting with clinical trials.

Purcell Group Current Projects