Stephen Locarnini’s major research interest since 2003 has included viral hepatitis and antiviral chemotherapy. This area embraces the basic virology of the various agents of hepatitis, the immunopathogenesis of hepatitis, as well as prevention and public health control measures. Recently, he has been directly involved in patient advocacy issues through the ACT-HBV initiative and also policy development for the Australian Government on hepatitis B diagnosis, monitoring and treatment. However, the treatment of hepatitis B and C with antiviral agents represents the greatest challenge not only from a drug target perspective, but because of the challenges of resistance and lack of education and expertise by the greater practitioner population. Even more recently the research focus of Prof Locarnini’s group has been on cellular innate responses to viral infection and replication especially the specific interaction of HBV precore protein and the Toll-like receptor system, in collaboration with A/Professor Kumar Visvanathan. This has already resulted in a significant paradigm shift in our understanding of hepatitis B pathogenesis and the possibility of new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches. Prof Locarnini’s minor research interest is in sexually transmitted infections of man, especially infections caused by the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus, the herpes viruses and the human papillomaviruses. The impact of virus-virus interactions in the setting of antiviral therapy has resulted in a major initiative of researching the natural history of liver disease in patients with HIV-HBV co-infection in the era of HAART. He also has an interest in intellectual property issues as applied to clinical virology.
During his research career, Stephen Locarnini has published 164 papers in peer-reviewed journals, written 13 invited editorials as well as 69 book chapters/reviews and co-edited a text book on HBV which is now in its second edition in 2008. He has 32 National and 92 International invited presentations and provides consultant services to all the major pharmaceutical companies involved in hepatitis B drug development. Furthermore, he is a named inventor on 14 patents and two copyright agreements. Seven of these patents have been licensed to Evivar Pty Ltd, a listed start-up company jointly developed by Melbourne Health (RMH) and the Australian Technology Fund (ATF) (see www.evivar.com). Stephen is a scientific consultant and member of the Board of Management of Evivar Pty Ltd.
In regards to his published papers:
Stephen Locarnini h-index is 47. Sum of the Times Cited: 6,287. Average Citations per item: 18.49I
Prof Locarnini has received NHMRC support throughout his research career mainly as chief investigator A. More recently, this has been widened to include two NIH RO-1 grants as well as continuous support from the pharmaceutical industry with independent contract-type (fee for services) work.
Research Contribution & Recognition
Stephen Locarnini’s major contribution to the field in the recent past has been in understanding how antiviral agents work against HBV, the mechanisms of antiviral drug resistance and the prevention of drug-resistance. His Molecular Research and Development group has developed novel assays to monitor in the patient, the effect of the antiviral agent on HBV replication, both positive and negative. More recently, his group has been collaborating with Dr Kumar Visvanathan on the innate immune response and Professor Sharon Lewin on the adaptive immune response and together have been fundamentally changing and challenging the previous existing models of liver disease pathogenesis. Furthermore, virus-virus interactions and co-infections present another layer of complexity both in terms of clinical outcomes and pathogenetic mechanisms. In the setting of HIV-HBV co-infection, the collaboration with Prof Lewin has been particularly productive. These contributions to the field have been recognised by the frequent invitations which he personally receives to present his lab groups data at international meetings as well as to write editorials in the leading journals, for example Gastroenterology (IF= 11.673). Furthermore, Prof Locarnini is regularly invited to participate in NIH USA consensus conferences as well as organise and participate in the major liver disease meetings and the relevant clinical practice organisations such as AASLD (American), EASL (European) and APASL (Asia-Pacific). This has resulted in substantial input in shaping clinical practice in most parts of the world.
We have established a novel patient management system based on relational databases (SeqHepB) for monitoring and treating patients with hepatitis B as well as drug-resistance. This facility is the only one of its kind in the world to manage patients with resistance and available on the web. My linkages in the Asia Pacific region are built on strong networks through the WHO Collaborating Centre for Virus Reference and Research (I am the Director) resulting in collaborations in Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China as well as charing the Asia-Pacific chapter of ACT-HBV.
Supervision & Research Leadership
Stephen Locarnini currently supervises 3 post-graduate (1 PhD and 2 MD) students directly and 3 students as co-supervisor. He has 3 post-doctoral fellows working in his group and he provides mentorship, scientific guidance and laboratory support (as well as training).
From the IP portfolio Prof Locarnini has built up over the last 10-12 years several commercialisation activities have resulted:
1. License deals to Innogenetics, Belgium
2. License deals to Evivar Pty Ltd
3. VC Funding support for Innate Immune response IP
4. Excellent relationships with the Pharmaceutical and Diagnostic Industry which can rapidly effect the translation from the laboratory to the bed-side of Stephen’s groups’ research themes and its collaborations.
Since Prof Locarnini’s PhD program in 1974-1976, the area of research is essentially viral hepatitis. He did his PhD on hepatitis A virus and made several important contributions including the discovery of hepatitis A specific IgM which is the single most important test for diagnosis of acute hepatitis A. There was an interruption to his research work when he went back to University and completed a medical degree from 1982 to 1986. His hospital training finished in 1989 and he then returned to laboratory-based medicine in early 1990. The focus of the research since this time has been blood borne viruses: hepatitis B, hepatitis C and co-infection with human immunodeficiency virus.