NT student to help fight disease in Vietnam 

CDU PhD candidate Jana Lai will travel to Vietnam next year after winning a 2012 Endeavour Research Fellowship

A Charles Darwin University PhD candidate will travel to Vietnam next year to help with an immunisation trial that could help reduce the rates of a disease killing millions of children in developing countries worldwide.

Jana Lai, who is undertaking her PhD through Menzies School of Health Research has won a 2012 Endeavour Research Fellowship, which will provide financial support for a portion of her postgraduate studies in Vietnam next year.

It is another feather in the cap for Jana, who is proving to have a bright future in health sciences after winning the 2010 NT Science and Engineering Young Achiever Award and becoming a finalist for NT Young Australian of the Year for 2011.

“Pneumonia is the number one killer of children around the world, killing two million children a year, more than HIV, Malaria and TB combined,” Jana said.

She will work with a team from the Menzies School of Health Research, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, NIHE and Institut Pasteur to set up a clinical trial of a pneumococcal vaccine in Ho Chi Minh City in early 2012.

“During my time in-country, I will be joining the laboratory at Institut Pasteur to complete the microbiological research component of the trial while analysing samples related to my PhD questions,” she said.

Her research will form part of a broader trial in Vietnam aiming to evaluate various infant vaccination schedules and address the outstanding questions that will guide the identification of a new schedule for routine immunisation in developing countries incorporating pneumococcal vaccines.

“For my PhD I will be specifically looking into the carriage of respiratory pathogens to test the efficacy of two new pneumococcal vaccines currently available in developing countries that could reduce the risks of childhood pneumonia in Vietnam,” she said.

“The data that I will collect for my PhD will contribute to the larger clinical trial, aiming to inform routine pneumococcal vaccination in Vietnam.”

Jana was also awarded the Ros Bracher Honours scholarship from Menzies School of Health Research in 2010 to support her studies looking into the development of a diagnostic tool to identify two key bacteria pathogens in childhood pneumonia.