‘Yes we can’: Telethon Kids Institute’s lead doctor for Human Vaccines Project says attitude essential in treating diseases

Dr Tobias Kollman (centre) with his team of experts working on developing one-off vaccines for infectious childhood diseases.
Dr Tobias Kollman (centre) with his team of experts working on developing one-off vaccines for infectious childhood diseases.

HE may not be Barack Obama but Telethon Kids Institute’s lead doctor for an international vaccines project lives by the same slogan, ‘yes we can’.

Tobias Kollman will head the world’s only paediatric hub at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) for the Human Vaccines Project that develops one-off vaccines targeting infectious diseases.

The Canadian-based clinical scientist, who moved to Perth for the position, said the “yes we can” attitude was essential for leading the way in how childhood diseases were prevented, diagnosed and treated.

“The mission of the Human Vaccines Project is that one vaccine is given to anyone, any one-time during life, anywhere around the world, and will be protected from whatever the target is for that vaccine,” Dr Kollman said.

“Fifty per cent of deaths under the age of five are happening in the new-born period, most of those in the first few days of life… that’s a big problem, that’s millions of deaths every single year.

“Unfortunately many of these deaths are happening in low resource settings in marginalised populations, even within our own countries.”

Dr Kollman said his experience was that West Australians also lived by “yes we can”, making the Telethon Kids Institute the ideal place to home the paediatric hub for the New York-based project.

Telethon Kids Institute director professor Jonathan Carapetis said the project was both ambitious and achievable.

“The Human Vaccines Project has the potential to truly unlock the power of the immune system to fight disease from within – that means more effective vaccines and immunotherapies,” he said.

Human Vaccines Project chief executive Wayne Koff said the international partnership was critical to ensure all people, including the most vulnerable, would benefit from the breakthroughs made.

“Together we will enhance scientific efforts toward better vaccines and immunotherapies, including a universal flu vaccine,” Dr Koff said.

PCH Foundation chief executive Carrick Robinson said Dr Kollman’s research had changed how infections in young babies were diagnosed and researched.

“Not only will he treat children at PCH, he will ensure that WA families reap the benefits of us being at the leading edge of new techniques and therapies,” he said.

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