A five-in-one vaccine for all Indonesian children

Indonesia is rolling out a five-in-one vaccine that they plan to deliver in a single shot to every Indonesian child to protect them against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib).

The rollout is supported by the Australian Government through GAVI, the global vaccine alliance. The vaccine is manufactured by Bio Farma, who also hope to add rotavirus to the vaccines in the future.

Boosting vaccine performance

Vaccines work best when they include an adjuvant, something that boosts your immune system’s reaction to the vaccine.

University of Melbourne researchers have recreated a fragment of a bacteria protein that activates white blood cells.

In 2012, they signed a research agreement with Bio Farma to help them turn their idea into a novel vaccine platform that could enhance vaccines for hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and other diseases.

About PT BioFarma

Bio Farma was established in 1890 and is a state-owned business that provides all the vaccines on Indonesia’s immunisation schedule. That’s 1.7 billion doses a year.

Bio Farma is also a major supplier to UN agencies and global health initiatives, producing, for example, 1.4 billion doses of polio vaccines of which about 20 million doses are for Indonesian use.

The company is based in Bandung about 100 km east of Jakarta.

Indonesian and Australian scientists test new TB vaccine targets

Better vaccines are needed for the global fight against tuberculosis (TB). The Global Fund reports an estimated nine million new cases globally per year of TB, which is second only to AIDS as the world’s most deadly infectious disease.

Indonesia had more than 320,000 reported cases in 2014 according to the World Health Organization, while Australia’s reported cases were just over 1,000. But the rise of drug-resistant TB poses a threat to all countries.

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Making blood on demand

‘Buddy’ cells that trigger blood stem cells to fully-develop have been discovered by a team of Australian scientists. The finding, in zebrafish, may hold the key to creating blood on demand in the lab.

Everyday medical procedures can require litres of donated blood; and blood stem cells – which can turn into any one of the different types of blood cell – are often used in treatments for leukaemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers.

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When the oceans were 20 metres higher: revealing past and future climates

Dr Christina Riesselman, geologist, University of Otago, Dunedin

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Christina Riesselman (Credit: L'Oréal New Zealand)

Three million years ago Earth was much as it is today – familiar continents, animals, and carbon dioxide levels. But temperatures were higher and sea levels were also about 20 metres higher. Today, a billion people live on land less than 20 metres above sea level, and carbon dioxide levels are rising.

Working on the Antarctic ice shelf and at sea Dr Christina Riesselman collects sediment cores from hundreds of metres under the sea floor and reads the climate history of millennia past using the microscopic fossilised fish teeth and diatomic algae she finds in the cores.

Christina will use her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship to turn her focus to the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. 2014 was the hottest year on record, but was it the hottest year since the end of the last ice age? Christina’s research could answer that question and help us understand and plan for the impact of our planet’s rapidly changing climate.

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The short lives of hard-living, fast burning, high mass stars

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Shari Breen (Credit: L'Oréal Australia)Dr Shari Breen, astronomer, CSIRO, Sydney

We are made of star stuff. The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth and the iron in our blood were all made in high mass stars that burnt briefly and brightly before exploding.

Dr Shari Breen is using ‘The Dish’ at Parkes and a network of international telescopes to understand the life cycle and evolution of these stars. For her the 1,000 tonne Parkes radio telescope is an old friend that creaks and grumbles as she guides it across the sky, hunting for high mass stars.

She will use her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship to develop her use of masers (laser-like beams of intense radio waves) to investigate these stars.

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How we imagine the future

Dr Muireann Irish, cognitive neuroscientist, Neuroscience Research Australia/UNSW, Sydney

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Muireann Irish (Credit: L'Oréal Australia)Dr Muireann Irish has discovered which parts of our brain are essential to imagine the future, ranging from simple things like “I must remember my keys and my wallet when I go out,” to imagining complex events such as “my next holiday”. And she has shown that people with dementia don’t just lose the ability to remember the past, they also lose the ability to envisage the future.

She will use her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship to better understand how dementia affects this cognitive function. She expects her work will inform the development of activities for patients that will improve their quality of life and reduce the burden faced by caregivers.

Cognitive decline in the form of dementia will be one of the greatest challenges for our health system in the next fifty years and Muireann is leading the search for solutions.

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A hot future for sharks

Dr Jodie Rummer, marine biologist, James Cook University, Townsville

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Jodie Rummer (Credit: L'Oréal Australia)Dr Jodie Rummer swims with sharks for her research. She is fascinated by fish and their ability to deliver oxygen to their muscles 20 to 50 times more efficiently than we can. Her global research into salmon, mackerel, hagfish, and now sharks explains why fish dominate the oceans, and has given her the opportunity to swim with sharks in the world’s largest shark sanctuary, in French Polynesia.

Her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship will help her predict how sharks and other fish will cope with rapidly changing oceans. Some will be winners, some will be losers as the climate changes. That’s a problem not just for the oceans, but also for the communities that depend on fish for protein.

“Fish have been on the planet for hundreds of millions of years. It’s up to us to ensure they’re here for the next 100 million years,” she says.

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Sharing light and neutrons

Japanese researchers are coming to Australia for our neutron beams. It’s helping them continue their research following the shutdown of all Japanese research reactors in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. And it cements a friendship in beamline science that kickstarted Australian access to synchrotron light.

A tsuba (hand guard) from a samurai sword imaged using neutrons from OPAL. Credit: Floriana Salvemini, ANSTO
A tsuba (hand guard) from a samurai sword imaged using neutrons from OPAL.
Credit: Floriana Salvemini, ANSTO

“Japan’s leadership in electronics, advanced manufacturing and computing complements Australia’s leadership in agriculture, health and minerals,” says the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Robert Robinson, who chaired an Australia Japan Neutron Science Workshop in 2013.
The collaboration is contributing to research into: hard magnets for electric cars; new high density plastics; superconducting cables for the ITER fusion reactor; and the structure of a range of biological molecules.

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