Professor Simon Mallal

Murdoch Profile

Professor Mallal has made many notable contributions to science with an emphasis on practical translation of many of these discoveries to improve clinical practice. The breakthroughs of his team have been published in high impact journals such as Science, Nature and The Lancet and in 2005 he was awarded the WA Premier’s Prize for Achievement in Science.

Professor Mallal is a Consultant Clinical Immunologist at the Department of Clinical Immunology (Royal Perth Hospital), managing the care of patients with HIV, allergic and autoimmune diseases and provides immunopathology supervision of the routine laboratories.

Since 1987, Professor Mallal has been involved in a number of studies examining the association between polymorphic genes and clinical outcomes of infectious and autoimmune diseases. He also coordinated epidemiological studies related to the changing pattern of HIV and AIDS and the risks of occupational exposure to the virus, which have led to the formulation of public health interventions and clinical practices.

Immune restoration disease in HIV-infected patients has also been a research focus providing insights into the pathogenesis of opportunistic infections in patients with HIV-induced immunodeficiency and the pathogen-specific immune response. In 1994, Professor Mallal completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Data derived from the Western Australian HIV Cohort and a long-standing collaboration with Professor Ian James and the Mathematics Programme at Murdoch University underpinned the establishment of the Institute for Immunology & Infectious Diseases of which Professor Mallal is the Director.

The Institute has brought together expertise in clinical medicine, basic science, mathematics and computing to focus on contemporary clinical problems in infectious diseases and immunology. This work is providing insights into prevalent chronic disorders in the general community such as osteoporosis, obesity and vascular disease and has also contributed significantly to an understanding of the pathogenesis of antiretroviral therapy-associated lipoatrophy and mitochondrial toxicity.

In 2002, Professor Mallal initiated a study investigating possible genetic determinants of susceptibility to abacavir hypersensitivity reactions, utilising HLA typing data available for all abacavir-exposed individuals in the Western Australian population. Results from this study showed a striking association between HLA B*5701 and abacavir hypersensitivity, representing one of the strongest HLA associations with a clinical syndrome yet described.

Professor Mallal and his team have also been able to show that prospective genetic testing can prevent hypersensitivity and with international collaborators have facilitated the implementation of routine pharmacogenetic testing around the world. This has provided a roadmap for clinical translation of several other examples of personalised genetic medicine.

The genetics of host-pathogen interactions has been another major research interest. Professor Mallal’s team published a seminal research article on HIV adaptation to HLA-restricted immune responses in Science (2002) which has spawned the use of population studies to examine host-pathogen adaptation. More recently his team has worked with collaborators at Microsoft Research to examine the co-evolution of human HLA genes and the broad range of pathogenic viruses that infect humans. These studies are providing new insights into how human genes have successfully subspecialised to protect us from a wide variety of potential infections and the various strategies viruses have taken to circumvent these defences.

Professor Mallal has written over 180 peer reviewed journal articles and 5 book chapters and presents regularly at both international and national conferences.