Treating Epstein-Barr virus associated malignancies

Treating Epstein-Barr virus associated malignancies

The opportunity

  • EBV is the first human virus linked to the pathogenesis of certain cancers.
  • EBV-encoded protein BHRF1 confers chemoresistance.
  • Target identification and assay development completed, ready to perform BHRF inhibitor screen


EBV is strongly associated with certain lymphomas, such as Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), but also with carcinomas such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and gastric cancer.

Incidence of EBV-associated cancers varies across different demographics with almost 50 per cent occurring in East Asia. There is currently no vaccine against infection and no specific treatments. We have identified the EBV-encoded protein BHRF1, a viral homolog of BCL-2, as a potential drug target in a subset of BL. There is is also evidence for BHRF1 expression in NPC.

Scientific figure

The technology

Our team has found that BHRF1 can protect cancer cells against chemotherapeutic drugs and that its expression drives EBV-positive lymphoma development in preclinical models.

Opportunities for partnership 

This is an opportunity to develop a treatment for EBV-associated malignancies.

We have:

  • Expertise in EBV biology, viral and cellular BCL-2 proteins and hit-to-lead optimisation
  • X-ray crystal structures of BHRF1 and validated biochemical and cellular assays to perform HTS
  • BHRF1-dependent cell and in vivo models for compound evaluation

We are seeking an investment/co-development partner to complete:

  • The HTS and fragment screen for BHRF1 inhibitors
  • In vitro and in vivo inhibitor validation and medicinal chemistry
  • Validation of the importance of BHRF1 in EBV-associated carcinomas 

Scientific team

Dr Brad Sleebs, Laboratory Head, Chemical Biology division

Dr Gemma Kelly, Laboratory Head, Blood Cells and Blood Cancer division


Dr Anne-Laure Puaux, Head, Biotechnology and Commercialisation

Phone: +61 3 9345 2175