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Fellowship helps scientists discover new vaccines

26 November 2004

HRC Fellowship helps scientists discover new vaccines

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has announced the recipients of its prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship for 2004, each valued at $0.5M over four years.

Dr Richard Kingston and Dr Ian Hermans, who receive the Fellowship, are both researching vaccine development for human diseases.

Established to build New Zealand’s future capability in world-class research, the Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship is designed to support outstanding post-doctoral scientists establish careers as independent health researchers.

The scheme has proved an effective incentive and mechanism for retaining some of our most promising talent in New Zealand.

Dr Hermans will be conducting his research programme at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington supported by the Fellowship. He will investigate a series of compounds that are able to activate a certain set of immune cells.

This may form the basis of distinctive new vaccines against the bacterial and viral diseases for which no effective vaccine currently exists.

The research also has direct implications for the development of vaccination strategies in humans against cancer.

Dr Hermans obtained his PhD in molecular biology from Victoria University of Wellington, before working with Dr Franca Ronchese for five years at the Malaghan Institute.
He has spent the past three years working in collaboration with Prof Vincenzo Cerundolo at the University of Oxford studying innate immune mechanisms.

Richard Kingston’s research focuses on several types of virus, in particular the mumps and measles viruses, still a major threat to human health.

His research will examine the structure and action of key proteins that enable these viruses to survive and multiply inside their human host. One set of proteins enables the viruses to avoid the human immune response. Another is central to the replication of the viral DNA.

Dr. Kingston will join the Structural Biology Laboratory in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, where he will use X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance and electron microscopy to ‘see’ these proteins in atomic detail.

This will lead not only to a new understanding of the viruses themselves, but will open up the possibility of developing new anti-viral drugs or vaccines.

Dr Kingston received a PhD in Biochemistry from Massey University, and has spent research terms at Purdue and Oregon Universities in the United States.

Both men are considered to be exceptional scientists, receiving high praise from leaders in their fields.

“The HRC is committed to funding world-class health research. Our awards and fellowships are consistently going to top performers, and the Sir Charles Hercus Fellowships for 2004 are no exception,” says HRC Chief Executive Dr Bruce Scoggins.

The Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship was named in recognition of the contributions that Sir Charles Hercus (1888-1971) made to biomedical, clinical, and public health research during a distinguished 36-year career at the University of Otago, and his dedicated service to the Medical Research Council.


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