This research program will help identify genetic determinants of immune recovery in patients at greatest risk of poor immune reconstitution following antiretroviral therapy.
Why Reena decided to enter the fellowship:
Australia has had an instrumental role in the discovery of landmark findings which have significantly advanced HIV research.
Through this fellowship, Australia would help in shaping and driving the HIV research agenda in Malaysia through mentorship and capacity building which will contribute to improved health and development in the region.
This Australian-Malaysian network will result in one of the largest regional HIV biorepository encompassing multi-ethnic cohorts (Caucasian, African and Asian) that could be used to explore novel research questions on the role of genetic factors in modulating HIV disease progression. I am confident this research program will be an impetus for the development of other collaborative projects, proposals for international research funding and joint-supervision of post-graduate students which will benefit more scientists from both countries. My established links with Prof Lewin’s team will greatly facilitate the development of these joint research programs which will foster an equitable scientific collaboration between the two institutions.
Reena’s impressive past achievements:
Reena completed her professional training as a clinical pharmacist with high distinction in 2003 and joined the University of Malaya (UM) as one of the youngest academic staff in the Department of Pharmacy. In both 2005 and 2014, she obtained an excellence service award from the university in recognition of her professional performance. During her clinical attachment with the Infectious Diseases Unit, she developed a keen interest in HIV/AIDS.
Reena was awarded the prestigious King’s Scholarship from the Malaysian Government in 2006 to pursue her PhD in Immunology with Prof Sharon Lewin, a renowned HIV scientist at Monash University. Her PhD involved studying the influence of biological determinants on immune recovery and immune activation in HIV-infected patients. With excellent guidance from her supervisors, she identified a novel genetic mutation that significantly influenced immune recovery in HIV-infected patients. Her work was highly recognised and she received a number of travel grants to present the findings in both local and international conferences. She has published 5 highly cited original research articles from her PhD where she authored 3 and co-authored 2 review articles.
In 2011, Reena returned to Malaysia to resume a faculty position at the Department of Pharmacy, UM. She was seconded to the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) to help establish the core immunology facility in University Malaya (UM Immunotherapeutics Laboratory) which supports multidisciplinary research. She sought out like-minded clinicians and together, they have established a translational HIV research program. She has also expanded her research focus to include 'HIV and aging' and 'the role of immune-aging in childhood cancer survivors'.