A pioneering product aimed at treating people exposed to the deadly Hendra virus will be produced in Brisbane, after a three-way agreement was announced at The University of Queensland today.
The accord between Queensland Health, UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and a United States foundation will allow the AIBN to produce monoclonal antibodies that target the virus.
Queensland Health has granted $300,000 to AIBN to produce the Hendra monoclonal antibody.
It remains an experimental drug and Hendra virus itself is not used at any stage of the production.
The antibodies were developed in Washington DC in conjunction with CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
The AIBN director, Professor Peter Gray, said monoclonal antibodies had shown great promise in treating human diseases including arthritis and tumours associated with breast and colon cancer.
The antibodies also were being trialed as treatments for viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis. Professor Gray welcomed the funding and said it was “a vote of confidence in the AIBN’s world-class facilities”.
“AIBN is honoured and eager to assist with this important work,” he said.
“The Biologics Facility, where the work will be conducted, was established under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and includes a substantial financial commitment from the Queensland and Federal governments.”
Australians have become familiar with the acute dangers of Hendra virus since it emerged in 1994 in the inner Brisbane suburb after which it is named, a suburb that adjoins two racecourses.
With only seven people known to have been infected, Hendra remains one of the world’s rarest diseases. But with four of those people dying, it is also one of the most dangerous known diseases, with a fatality rate of close to 60 per cent.
In horses, Hendra kills more than 70 per cent of animals infected.
Humans appear to contract Hendra virus from close contact with the bodily fluids of infected horses. There are no known instances of human-to-human transmission.
AIBN is a multidisciplinary research institute focused on issues in the areas of health, energy and the environment.