Professor Anthony (Tony) Cunningham, AO,FAHMS is an infectious diseases physician, clinical virologist and scientist, internationally renowned for his research on the immunobiology of HIV and herpesviruses, his work on vaccine and microbicide development, and as an antivirals expert. He is the Director of the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research (ACH2), a Commonwealth Government-funded institute that aims combat the impact of HIV and hepatitis in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region by bringing together basic researchers with translational scientists and physicians. Professor Cunningham has previously worked at Stanford University, USA, built up the State Reference Laboratory in Virology at and established a state reference HIV laboratory at Westmead Hospital in the mid 1980s before assuming directorship of WMI in 1996. He has generated many key discoveries relating to HIV. His research has been instrumental in defining HIV interactions with host immune cells including dendritic cells (DCs), the initial target in the anogenital mucosa, and macrophages (the virus reservoir), and the process of virus trafficking to the final T cell target. His research aims to develop a treatment (e.g. topical antiviral/microbicide) that acts at the source of infection to prevent the spread of HIV. His team also has made key contributions to human immunology and neurobiology of Herpes simplex virus (HSV), leading to the development and trialing by GSK of a partly successful candidate HSV vaccine and recently, a highly efficacious vaccine for Herpes zoster. Professor Cunningham serves on numerous international expert panels on HIV/HSV, antivirals and vaccines and as a member of the Australian Centre for Vaccine Development Scientific Advisory Committee. In 2010 he was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for ‘service to medicine, particularly in the field of viral research and through the development and leadership of medical and biomedical research’.
Since stepping down from the WIMR director role, Professor Cunningham has continued his research on a NHMRC Senior Investigator Grant and is immersed in COVID-19 research and other issues, including:
* A member of the NSW COVID-19 Vaccine Committee, the NSW Waratah COVID vaccine trial alliance and the national Vax4COVID trials alliance
* A contributing author and lead author respectively, "The risk of COVID-19 recurrence in winter", and "Vaccines for COVID-19", commissioned from the Australian Academies of Science and Health and Medical Science, by the Chief Scientist of Australia for the Commonwealth Ministers of Health and Science
* A member of the Safety Review Board for the University of Queensland Phase I clinical trial of SARS-CoV-2 Sclamp vaccine and of the Seqirus global COVID Vaccines Advisory Committee.


Immunology, HIV, Vaccines and vaccinology, Virology & Virus Diseases, Neurosciences


Infection and Immunological Conditions

Clinical Specialty

Infection and Immunity

Research Focus

Professor Cunningham’s research focuses on HIV and HSV immunobiology including pathogenesis, seroepidemiology, antiviral treatment and vaccine development. He has a particular interest in delineating the interaction of HIV with macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs). His is one of the leading groups in the world studying HIV-macrophages and HIV-DCs. His many novel findings include confirming direct evidence of heterosexual vaginal transmission of HIV (with minimal trauma). He participated in the first and only molecular study of a cohort of long-term survivors infected with an attenuated strain of HIV by blood transfusion (Sydney Blood Bank Cohort), which still has important implications for vaccine development. He has helped identify macrophage surface molecules involved in HIV infection, which are potential therapeutic targets, and studied the influence of host genetics on HIV replication. His work demonstrating a two-phase trafficking process of HIV from DCs to T cells has implications for inhibitor drug development.

Ongoing projects are investigating the manner in which HIV infection of Langerhans (dendritic) cells or macrophages, subverts the body’s natural antiviral defense by inhibiting the Interferon system.

Renowned also for his research on HSV, Professor Cunningham oversees an active program studying the immunology and neurobiology of HSV infection, partly aimed at developing better vaccine candidates. Additionally, as both HIV and HSV can infect DCs and prior HSV-2 infection is associated with greater than three-fold increase in HIV acquisition, his group is studying co-infection of DCs with HIV and HSV, including how HSV enhances HIV growth in DCs.

Other Affiliations

Faculty of Medicine and Health > FMH Medical Research Institutes > Westmead Institute for Medical Research


Australasian Society for Immunology
International AIDS Society
International Society for Antiviral Research
American Society for Microbiology
Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases
Australasian Society for Microbiology
Australasian Virology Society

Awards and Recognition

  • 2015 President elect of The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).
  • 2015 Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (FAHMS).  (Equivalent to NIH Institute of Medicine).
  • 2010 Awarded Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to medicine, particularly in the field of viral research and through the development and leadership of medical and biomedical research”.  (Equivalent:  Knight Bachelor UK).
  • 2009 John Subake-Sharpe Lecture, International Herpesvirus Workshop, Ithaca, United States of America.
  • 2005 Beyerink Lecture, Dutch Virology Society.              
  • 2003 3rd Jian Zhou Oration, Centre for Cancer and Immunology Research, The University of Queensland.
  • 1981-1983 NH&MRC Overseas (Neil Hamilton Fairley) Postdoctoral Fellow Division of Infectious Diseases, Stanford University.
  • 1990 Elected Fellow of the Australian Society for Microbiology.




  • 1984  MD, University of Melbourne
  • 1972  M.B.B.S., University of Melbourne
  • 1972  B. Med. Sci. (Hons), University of Melbourne
  • 1979  F.R.A.C.P. Royal Australian College of Physicians
  • 1985  F.R.C.P.A., Royal College of  Pathologists, Melbourne