28 Feb 2014
Professor Ian Frazer

For 25 years Professor Ian Frazer has pursued an interest in development of  vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the estimated  500,000 annual deaths from papillomavirus related human cancers in the cervix  and elsewhere. In 1985, with colleagues in Melbourne Professor Frazer  demonstrated, at a time when the association of papillomavirus infection with  cervical cancer was still contentious, that papillomavirus infection also  contributed to anal precancer, particularly in men with immunosuppression as a  result of HIV/AIDS. 

In 1990, Professor Frazer and his then postdoctoral  scientist, Dr Jian Zhou, developed the technology for producing human  papillomavirus virus like particles. This technology, licensed through the  University of Queensland, is now the basis of vaccines recently brought to  market by GSK (Cervarix) and Merck (Gardasil) to prevent cervical cancer. The  HPV vaccine is only the second vaccine to be produced using recombinant DNA  technology, which was necessary because papillomaviruses could not be grown in  cell culture. The development of HPV virus like particles was an early product  of the application of comparative genomics. Sequence alignment for the genes for  the major capsid proteins of a range of papillomaviruses showed that expression  of the major capsid protein of the HPV16 virus from the second initiation codon  in eukaryotic cells was likely to induce particle formation where conventional  expression strategies had failed.

Professor Frazer has also developed  two different therapeutic vaccines for chronic HPV infection, one currently in  Phase 2b clinical trials through CSL Ltd, an Australian Biotechnology company, and one in Phase 2b clinical trials in China and Brisbane with funding from the  Cancer Research Institute of New York and The Wellcome Foundation. Professor  Frazer has also developed a technology for improving the immune response to  polynucleotide vaccines based on differential preferences for codon usage  between cells of different lineages, which has been licensed to Coridon Pty Ltd  and is currently being used to develop polynucleotide vaccines for Herpesviruses.