Author of ‘Ian Frazer … The man who saved a million lives’, Brisbane’s Madonna King, has certainly done justice to telling the life story and, scientific story of Prof Ian Frazer, one of Australia’s leading medical and scientific researchers.
In 2012 I heard Prof Frazer give an excellent presentation to a Prostate Cancer Support group at Tweed heads. I was impressed, because here was a man clearly still as passionate about his work as when he began in the field of medicine, virology and immunology decades prior. Born in the same year as myself, we shared a hero.
Ian Frazer grew up in the era of TV scientist Prof Julius Sumner-Miller whose program was called “Why is it so”? I have met so many scientists around the world who name Prof Sumner-Miller as their early inspiration to pursuit of a scientific career – What a legacy he left!
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Prof Ian Frazer on my educational US based internet radio series “Navigating the Cancer Maze”. If you missed this interview – it comes as highly recommended as the book about his life and work.
It is not easy to maintain that degree of dedication and passion that Ian Frazer exudes; he must work hideously long hours. Although very gracious and compassionate one gets the sense that here is a man whose reputation has been hard-earned and at a cost. The world of science, research and pharmaceutical companies is highly competitive and it is this part of the book that is so revealing about the dogged nature of Prof Frazer. Yet, this is softened by the care and compassion threaded throughout the pages especially when it came to sharing the accolades with colleagues such as Jian Zhou.
The unexpected fight of his life and the lives of his fellow researchers began following a published paper in the Journal Virology by his colleague the late Jian Zhou, his wife Xiao Yi Sun, Deborah Stenzel and Prof Frazer. The paper was to be presented at a conference in Seattle in the USA , and at the last minute – a patent was issued in Queensland before Jian Zhou and Ian Frazer left Australia to present one of the world’s biggest breakthroughs in the fight against cervical cancer. However – what ensued over the coming years was a court case to determine who was the real inventor/owner of the world’s first HPV vaccine…it was declared it was not Australia – but the US Georgetown based researchers that deserved first place and the right to say they developed the Vaccine. It was not until August 2007 that this judgement was reversed!
The story is complex but Madonna King weaves her literary skill…. the battle for rightful Australian and not US ownership of the vaccine discovery and patent reads like a spy novel crossed with a television drama – it would make a great Australian mini-series!
This book is not only significant in describing the story line of Prof Ian Frazer the man and his family and colleagues – but also it paints a picture of the behind the scenes pressures and skulduggery that happens in a medical research world that most of us know little about. It is complex and convoluted and of course as well as the discoveries – there is always the financial rewards that creates a competitive race to the finish-line approach. You will read about pharmaceutical companies, ethics and laws and the struggles that ensued to bring truth and a humane discovery to light. Prof Ian Frazer and his team shine throughout.
I would highly recommend this book. It is a great read for anybody who wants to know the science and reason and efforts behind the development of the cervical vaccine that Prof Frazer and the late Jian Zhou pioneered; and, as well, Madonna King shows us the human faces and lives of the people behind science and research that makes our live better. The book is aptly titled….”‘Ian Frazer … The man who saved a million lives’.
A great Christmas gift!
How to get your copy: available in Australia from Dymocks, Target and many other bookstores.
Not available in e-book yet, the book is published by University of Queensland Press BUY ONLINE HERE