At last week’s Senior School assembly, Principal, Mrs Maryanne Davis asked the girls what they would choose if they could have any superpower. She said:
“I would want it to be something where I could REALLY serve others ... maybe save thousands of lives ... even millions if it is going to be a REAL superpower.”
If I could choose my superpower, it would be to have a science brain big enough to find an effective vaccination against malaria.
One of the biggest challenges for scientists around the world is to invent or create an effective vaccine to prevent malaria. If this can be done, it will change the world for millions of people especially those in developing countries. The developer of this vaccine will be showing superpowers greater than any of the traditional superheroes.
Malaria: a big problem
Why is this such an enormous challenge for the world? It is one of the deadliest diseases with approximately 3.2 billion people living in malaria endemic countries. Of the 500,000 sufferers who die each year, 80 percent are young children not strong enough to fight off the killer parasite. There are some drugs available to prevent or lessen the impact or the disease, but these drugs are not 100% effective. They also have significant side effects, can generally not be taken long term, and are too expensive to be used by the affected populations on an ongoing basis.
At the moment the best way to stop getting the disease is to not be bitten by a mosquito when you are in an area where malaria-bearing mosquitoes exist. Thankfully, this is not a problem in Sydney!
Dr Danielle Stanisic: super scientist!
Enter Dr Danielle Stanisic - who has been working for the past nine years with Professor Michael Good AO at Griffith University in Queensland to develop a malaria vaccine. They have adopted a different approach and they have had some initial success.
Initial success in human clinical trials have given hope for the next stage in the development of a new malaria vaccine. Dr Stanisic and Prof Good are the first in the world to develop a whole-parasite blood-stage malaria vaccine which they have trialed in humans and in animals. The vaccine has proven to be safe and has provided immunity to those to whom it has been administered.
The next stage is to see if it the immunity works to kill the parasite in humans as it has done in animals. If it is found to be safe in human volunteers, it will be trialed in an area where malaria is very common and then trialed in lots of areas in multiple countries.
Dr John Gerrard, Director of Infectious Diseases at Gold Coast Health, said the opportunity to oversee the transition from laboratory to human volunteers has been inspiring: “Gold Coast Health is supportive of such innovative research of global significance.“
“An effective vaccine against malaria is a Holy Grail of medical research,” Dr Gerrard said.
Dr Danielle Stanisic and those working with her are super scientists! They are using the power of their knowledge, agility of thinking and desire to serve others as a superpower that may literally save thousands of people worldwide.
When I speak with Year 12’s after the HSC and ask them what they want to do, they will often say that they want to help people, that Danebank has taught them well and they want to serve others. However often we are not agile in our thinking about how we can help others. Often we only think in terms of careers in medical fields. Danielle Stanisic shows us how doing research in a university lab is really serving others too.
All of your teachers are serving you every day in the classroom. Teaching is probably the ideal career if you want to serve others. Education changes lives not only for those you teach, but also for the children of those you teach.
The firefighters currently fighting the bushfires around NSW are serving families and communities as no other person can. Our farmers and graziers serve us by providing our food... they serve us every moment of every day.
Martin Luther King Jnr said:
“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”
This week I encourage you to look outside the square as you look to live a life where you shine like stars, as you serve, are enthusiastic about your life’s work, exercise agile thinking and lead in a manner that makes the world a better place.