Professor Ian Frazer will use his profile as Australian of the Year to help ensure his cancer vaccine reaches those who need it most – women and girls living in poverty.
Professor Frazer, of The University of Queensland, is a humble recipient of the nation's top honour.
"It's a marvellous honour, especially as I follow in the footsteps of distinguished medical scientists who are recent Australians of the Year: Professor Peter Doherty, Sir Gus Nossal and Professor Fiona Wood," Professor Frazer said.
"Gus, Fiona and I all chose to be Australians and to make this country the cradle of research that aims to improve the lives of millions of people.
"It's a great privilege to be recognised by Australia as the 2006 Australian of the Year.
"But it's an even greater privilege to be able to do something tangible for the health of Australian women, and for women throughout the world," Professor Frazer said.
Professor Frazer and the late Dr Jian Zhou made a discovery at UQ more than 15 years ago that has led to the development of a vaccine for cervical cancer. The vaccine, known as Gardasil and Cervarix, is expected to become available in the developed world in mid-2006.
On Saturday (January 21) Professor Frazer was also named 2005 Australian of the Year by The Australian.
Professor Frazer said Australia and other developed nations had effective Pap smear programs to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.
"Despite this, cervical cancer continues to be a shocking disease for women in the developed world.
"Women living in poverty in the developing world, where Pap smears are not widely available, account for most of the 275,000 deaths from cervical cancer each year.
"So this vaccine has the potential to do most good in the developing world, where it could help lift women out of poverty by relieving the burden of disease.
"Women in China, birthplace of my late colleague Dr Jian Zhou, will be some of the greatest beneficiaries of the vaccine.
"I feel I have a responsibility to ensure that they and other women in developing countries have affordable access to the vaccine that he helped develop."
Professor Frazer is working with the Gates Foundation and is a consultant to the World Health Organisation's Expanded Vaccine Initiative, with the aim of delivering the drug as cheaply as possible in the developing world.
He welcomed the fact that both companies producing the vaccine had indicated that they would introduce a differential pricing structure so developing countries could get the vaccine at a cheaper price.
"However 'cheaper' does not necessarily mean it will be affordable in poor nations," Professor Frazer said.
"I intend to keep a close eye on the global distribution of the vaccine, with the aim of it being available to the women and girls who most need it."
UQ's Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield congratulated Professor Frazer on his award and praised his intention to apply it for the good of women worldwide.
"UQ is honoured to have Ian Frazer working with us as Director of the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research.
"He demonstrates beautifully how long-term, meticulous research can lead to remarkable developments for human health.
"Ian has never lost the focus of his work's potential to help others.
"Throughout his outstanding career he has put his personal interests on the backburner – and that quality alone makes him worthy of the title 'Australian of the Year'," Professor Greenfield said.
Media: Fiona Kennedy (UQ) 073-365-1088 / 041-338-0012; Anton Sanker (UQ's Centre for Immunological & Cancer Research) 041-205-7512; or Cathy Ewart (Australian of the Year Awards) 028-572-5625 / 041-200-5584
Images of Professor Frazer can be downloaded at http://omc.uq.edu.au/images/Frazer/ (Photos by Chris Stacey, The University of Queensland).
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