Although there is still much work to do before human trials can even be considered, a scientist from Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research has created a protein that reportedly keeps HIV from progressing into AIDS. Perhaps ironically, that protein is a mutated form of one found in the HIV virus itself.

Associate Professor David Harrich led a team that modified the existing HIV-1 Tat protein into a protein known as “Nullbasic.” In lab tests, he says, it’s successfully kept the HIV virus from replicating. That means that if it were to work in humans, they would still have HIV, but they wouldn’t develop AIDS. They also wouldn’t be required to take HIV-suppressing drugs indefinitely, as they presently do.

Animal trials are planned to begin later this year.

“This is like fighting fire with fire,” said Harrich. “If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a many hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Human Gene Therapy, and can be accessed free of charge online.