August 22, 2011
Medicines Development is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Gerhard Rank to support the RV3 Rotavirus Vaccine team at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI). Dr Rank will help coordinate the development of MCRI’s novel vaccine to protect newborns from rotavirus infection.
Rotavirus is a life-threatening diarrhoeal disease that kills half a million children worldwide each year. Nearly every child in the world, regardless of income level or geographic location, will contract rotavirus before the age of three. While vaccinations are part of national immunizations programs in countries such as Australia and the USA, immunization efforts in developing countries have been hindered by limited access due to cost and practical administration of the current vaccines.
Current rotavirus vaccines are given to babies from six to eight weeks of age, which may leave newborn infants at risk of early infection and, in countries with limited health care access, may delay timely administration of the vaccine. The MCRI researchers and their collaborators have initiated the clinical development of a new vaccine to protect newborn infants against rotavirus.
“This is a contribution of major importance to global child health by Australian researchers and one that has enormous potential to reduce suffering and mortality among the most vulnerable children around the world” lead researcher Professor Julie Bines of MRCI, the University of Melbourne’s Department of Paediatrics and the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne said. “If the trials are successful, our vaccine could offer a major boost for global efforts to reduce death and suffering from rotavirus in children worldwide.”
“The new vaccine candidate has the potential to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating babies at birth while they were still in a health care setting. Our aim is to provide the RV3 vaccine at a lower cost than current vaccines available on the market. While we hope the vaccine will be available in Australia, our first priority will be the developing world, where 90% of rotavirus deaths occur”, said Professor Bines. “We are delighted to contribute our product development expertise to the team working on this important new vaccine” said Mark Sullivan, Director of Medicines Development. “Medicines Development was established to support programs such as this to aid the delivery of new medicines and vaccines to those most in need.” The vaccine candidate is the culmination of almost four decades of research in Australia by MCRI, the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and the University of Melbourne, following the discovery of rotavirus by a team of staff led by Professor Ruth Bishop in 1973.