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ISI PUBLIC LECTURE AWARD 2007 – PROFESSOR ADRIAN HILL
The Irish Times – April 19, 2007
Why TB and HIV are so difficult to curb
The problem researchers face in developing effective vaccines for TB and HIV/Aids is the subject of the Irish Times/ RDS/ISI lecture, writes Dick Ahlstrom.
There are huge challenges to be overcome in designing new vaccines needed by the developing world. More research is required if diseases such as malaria and TB is to be overcome through vaccination.
What makes diseases such as TB and HIV/Aids so difficult to beat is the subject matter for a lecture early next month by a leading researcher. Prof Adrian Hill of Oxford University comes to Dublin on May 10 to deliver the Irish Society for Immunology (ISI) annual award lecture at the Royal Dublin Society. Originally from Dublin and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Prof Hill is a Wellcome principal research fellow at the University of Oxford. He is also professor of human genetics and chairman of Oxford’s Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine.
“We work on vaccines for developing country diseases such as malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis,” Prof Hill explains. “They are extraordinarily difficult diseases to vaccinate against.” A vaccine against TB has been available since the 1970s but it isn’t very effective, particularly against strains of the disease found in the developing world.
“With HIV we are still on the starting blocks,” he adds. “There needs to be a lot more research from academia to answer the big questions about vaccine design.”
Many vaccines prompt the immune system to produce antibodies against disease, but this approach doesn’t work well with malaria or TB.
One possible answer is to design vaccines that produce cellular immunity, Hill says. This prompts an immune response driven by various types of white blood cells including macrophages, natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes.
The annual ISI lecture is organised jointly by the ISI, The Irish Times and the RDS. It is pitched at a general audience and no special knowledge is required. The lecture is titled “Do It Yourself Vaccine Design.”