Meet The Researcher

Professor Sanjay Swaminathan

Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I have lived in 5 states of Australia and have worked in three. I did my schooling in rural Tasmania and Victoria before moving to the big smoke of Melbourne to start my medical degree.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
MS, like many other autoimmune diseases, affects young people disproportionally and has a huge impact on quality of life. One of my goals is to contribute to a cure to this disabling disease and use the lessons learnt to combat other autoimmune disorders.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
It has been amazing to see the number of new therapeutics emerge in the last five years and the effects they have had for patients, their families and loved ones and the teams looking after them. The emergence of therapies targeting progressive MS is also very encouraging.
Tell us about your current research project...
Our research team is interested in understanding how a common viral infection, Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), that infects up to 90% of the general population, may play a role in patients developing MS. Our prior research has shown that EBV produces a protein that is important in turning on genes that have been shown to increase your risk of developing MS. We hope to be able to block this protein with various inhibitors to see if this may change whether these risk genes are turned on. We have also noted that there are differences in the genes that are turned on and off between males and females who are infected with EBV and this may partly explain why females are more prone to getting MS. One of our goals is to try and understand why this difference exists between the sexes and how we may be able to reduce the risks with various therapeutics.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
We believe our research will highlight the importance of EBV in developing MS, provide new therapeutic targets and be applicable to other autoimmune disorders, such as SLE.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I really enjoy working with our team of highly intelligent and enthusiastic scientists and clinicians who are dedicated to really understanding how and why MS occurs and who are coming up with novel ways of combatting this disease. One of our big challenges is finding ongoing funding for our important work and we are very grateful that MS Research Australia has provided us with vital funding. We are also extremely grateful to all the donors who have helped raise money for MS Research Australia and would like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Current Research Project

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Professor Sanjay Swaminathan