Ian Frazer

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Ian Hector Frazer

Born (1953-01-06) 6 January 1953 (age 71)
Glasgow, Scotland
NationalityAustralian, British
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
(BSc), (M.B.B.S.);
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research;
University of Melbourne (M.D.)
Known forHPV vaccine creation
AwardsAustralian of the Year (2006),
Prime Minister's Prize for Science (2008),
Australian Living Treasure (2012),
Companion of the Order of Australia (2012)
Scientific career
InstitutionsTranslational Research Institute, University of Queensland

Ian Hector Frazer AC (born 6 January 1953) is a Scottish-born Australian immunologist, the founding CEO and Director of Research of the Translational Research Institute (Australia).[1] Frazer and Jian Zhou developed and patented the basic technology behind the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer at the University of Queensland. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, Georgetown University, and University of Rochester also contributed to the further development of the cervical cancer vaccine in parallel.[2][3]


Frazer was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His parents were medical scientists,[4] and he was drawn to science from a young age.[5]

Frazer attended Aberdeen private school Robert Gordon's College.[4] He chose to pursue medicine over an earlier interest in physics due to physics having fewer research opportunities,[6] and he received his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, at the University of Edinburgh in 1974 and 1977 respectively. It was during this time that he met his wife Caroline, whom he married in 1976. His 1978–79 residency was in the Edinburgh Eastern General Hospital, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Roodlands General Hospital in Haddington.

In 1980/81 Frazer immigrated to Melbourne after he was headhunted by Dr. Ian Mackay at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research[7] to research viral immunology. In 1981 he discovered that the immunodeficiency afflicting homosexuals in San Francisco was also found in the gay men in his hepatitis B study, and in 1984 helped to confirm that HIV was a cause.[8] It was also found that another sexually transmitted virus was having a surprising effect: the human papilloma virus (HPV) infection seemed to be inducing precancerous cells.[9]

In 1985 he moved to the University of Queensland as a Senior Lecturer, with the opportunity to establish his own research laboratory. It was here in the Lions Human Immunology Laboratories he continued to research HPV in men, and contributed to HIV research.[10] During this time Frazer also taught at the university and ran diagnostic tests for the Princess Alexandra Hospital and[4] received his Doctor of Medicine qualification in 1988.[11]


On a 1989 sabbatical he met virologist Jian Zhou, and the two considered the problem of developing a vaccine for HPV – a virus that cannot be cultured without living tissue.[12] Frazer convinced Zhou to join him, and in 1990 they began to use molecular biology to synthesize particles in vitro that could mimic the virus. In March 1991 Zhou's wife and fellow researcher, Xiao-Yi Sun,[8] assembled by Zhou's instructions[13] two proteins into a virus-like particle (VLP),[14] resembling the HPV shell, from which HPV vaccine would ultimately be made.[5] The vaccine completely protects unexposed women against four HPV strains responsible for 70% of cervical cancers,[15][16] which kill about 250,000 women annually.[17][18] Frazer and Zhou filed a provisional patent in June 1991 and began work on developing the vaccine within UQ. To finance clinical trials, Australian medical company CSL, and later Merck, were sold partial patents.[19] (CSL has the exclusive license to sell Gardasil in New Zealand and Australia, Merck the license elsewhere.)[20] GlaxoSmithKline independently used the same VLP-approach to develop Cervarix, under a later US patent, licensing Frazer's intellectual property in 2005.[21]

Later in 1991 the research was presented at a US scientific meeting, and Frazer became Director of the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research at the University of Queensland (later renamed The Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine, where he held a personal chair as director). After three years in design, Gardasil went into testing, and Frazer became a professor in the university's Department of Medicine. In 1998 Frazer completed the first human trials for Gardasil, and became an Australian citizen.[4][14]

Pioneer Patent for VLPs and the HPV vaccine[edit]

US. 7,476,389, titled "Papilloma Virus Vaccines", was granted to co-inventors Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou (posthumously) on 13 January 2009. Its U.S. application was filed on 19 January 1994, but claimed priority under a 20 July 1992 PCT filing to the date of an initial [AU] Australian patent application filed on 19 July 1991.


In 2006 results from the four-year Phase III trials led to Australian and US regulatory approval.[14] Frazer's studies showed 100% efficacious protective immunity in HPV naïve women, but could not directly test protective immunity (against HPV exposure) in adolescent girls. As a surrogate test, antibody titer levels in vaccinated 9 to 15-year-old girls was shown high enough to give them the same level of immunity as vaccinated women.[22] It has been suggested that one way to bring cheaper equivalent vaccines to market is to mandate a similar induced immune response.[23]

Frazer administered the first official HPV-vaccination,[24] and was made 2006 Queenslander of the Year and Australian of the Year.[25][26]

In the 2007 resolution of their US patent lawsuit, Frazer's and Jian Zhou's heirs (Zhou, who died in 1999, was survived by his widow Xiao-Yi Sun and a son Andreas) world-wide rights to the fundamental VLP science, and Frazer's and Zhou's priority to invention of that fundamental VLP science, were both established.[6][21]

After 2009 reports of adverse Gardasil reactions, Frazer said "Apart from a very, very rare instance where you get an allergic reaction from the vaccine, which is about one in a million, there is nothing else that can be directly attributable to the vaccine."[27] Ian Frazer is one of the "most trusted" Australians, and some critics have accused Gardasil's advocates of exploiting patriotism[28] to promote its rapid Australian release.[29] (Australia's government had the world's most generous coverage for the drug, though it is the nation with the lowest cervical cancer mortality.)[20]


Ian Frazer lives in Brisbane, Australia with his wife Caroline. As of 2010, two of his sons are medical students and the third is a veterinary scientist.[30]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1999 Frazer received the Australian Biotechnology Award, and has since received more than twenty awards for science: [30]

In 2012 Frazer was named as a National Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).[39]

On 11 June 2012, Frazer was named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for "eminent service to medical research, particularly through leadership roles in the discovery of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine and its role in preventing cervical cancer, to higher education and as a supporter of charitable organisations."[40]

Current work[edit]


In February 2014, it was announced that Frazer's new vaccine against genital herpes has passed human safety trials in a trial of 20 Australians. The vaccine is designed to prevent new infections.[41]


From February 2011 to February 2015, Frazer was the CEO and Director of Research at the Translational Research Institute, a joint initiative of The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, the Mater Medical Research Institute and the Princess Alexandra Hospital.[42] He is researching immunoregulation and immunotherapeutic vaccines, supported by several US and Australian research funding bodies.[43] He is working on a VLP-based vaccine against hepatitis C, and is researching extensions to the VLP production technology for dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis vaccines. Frazer expects (50% effective) HIV vaccines to be available by 2028.[44] He is already overseeing trials of the first vaccine for skin cancer (the Squamous cancer,[45] caused by HPV) which might be ready before 2020.[46]

Frazer is the inaugural holder of the Queensland Government Smart State premier's fellowship, worth $2.5 million over 5 years. He has held continuous research funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) since 1985, mostly relating to papilloma viruses or tumor immunology. He is currently a joint Chief Investigator on an NHMRC program grant and a NHMRC/Wellcome program grant, together worth more than $2 million a year.

Teaching and industry[edit]

He teaches immunology to undergraduates and graduate students at the University of Queensland, is Cancer Council Australia president,[47] Chairman of the ACRF's Medical Research Advisory Committee, and advises the WHO and the Gates Foundation on papillomavirus vaccines.

Frazer consults for many pharmaceutical companies on Immunomodulatory drugs, prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. He sits on the board of three for-profit small biotech companies and a number of not for profit organisations.



  1. ^ "TRI Executive". Translational Research Institute. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  2. ^ McNeil C (April 2006). "Who invented the VLP cervical cancer vaccines?". Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 98 (7): 433. doi:10.1093/jnci/djj144. PMID 16595773.
  3. ^ King, Madonna (2013). Ian Frazer: The man who saved a million lives. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press. ISBN 9780702249570.
  4. ^ a b c d Thompson, Peter. "Professor Ian Frazer". Talking Heads. abc.net.au. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b Belinda Gibbon (program producer) (15 March 2007). "Meeting Ian Frazer". Catalyst. ABC. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  6. ^ a b Williams, Robyn (2008). "Professor Ian Frazer". Interviews with Australian scientists. Australian Academy of Science. Archived from the original on 5 March 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Ian Frazer". Ri Aus. Archived from the original on 10 February 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Eighty per cent of Australian secondary schoolgirls have been vaccinated with Gardasil
  8. ^ a b Whittaker, M. (4 March 2006). "God's Gift to Women". The Weekend Australian Magazine. 'Ian went to huge efforts and he got them visas to Australia,' recalls Margaret Stanley. 'It says a lot about Ian. If anything should come over in your article, it's that Ian is an extremely kind man.'
  9. ^ Frazer, I. H.; Crapper, R. M.; Medley, G.; Brown, T. C.; Mackay, I. R. (20 September 1986). "Association between anorectal dysplasia, human papillomavirus, and human immunodeficiency virus infection in homosexual men". The Lancet. 328 (8508): 657–660. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(86)90168-6. PMID 2876137. S2CID 34973455.
  10. ^ Frazer, I. H.; McCamish M; Hay I; North P. (3 October 1988). "Influence of human immunodeficiency virus antibody testing on sexual behaviour in a "high-risk" population from a "low-risk" city". Med J Aust. 149 (7). Lions Human Immunology Laboratories, University of Queensland, Department of Medicine, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba.: 365–8. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.1988.tb120670.x. PMID 3173194. S2CID 29026390.
  11. ^ "A hero of women and science". Diamantina Institute at The University of Queensland. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2009. Ian Frazer was set for a career in physics when a chance encounter with an immunologist, the father of his pen-friends girlfriend, changed his course.
  12. ^ Sterling, J. C., ed. (August 2001). "1". Human Papillomaviruses: Clinical and Scientific Advances. London: Hodder Arnold. ISBN 978-0-340-74215-0.
  13. ^ Vaccines Forgotten Man [www.theaustralian.com.au/news/tribute-to-vaccines-forgotten-man-story-e6frg600-1111116233989]
  14. ^ a b c Williams, L. (August 2006). "A Simple Idea". Reader's Digest.
  15. ^ Sawaya, G. F.; Smith-McCune, Karen (10 May 2007). "HPV Vaccination – More Answers, More Questions". The New England Journal of Medicine. 356 (19): 1990–1991. doi:10.1056/NEJMe078088. PMID 17494932. Archived from the original on 4 January 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010. Previous reports showed a remarkable 100% efficacy of a quadrivalent vaccine targeting HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 on outcomes related to vaccine HPV types in women with no evidence of previous exposure to those types [...] subgroups of subjects with no evidence of previous exposure to relevant vaccine HPV types were evaluated separately for vaccine efficacy. In these subgroups, efficacy of nearly 100% against all grades of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and adenocarcinoma in situ related to vaccine HPV types was reported [...] Why is vaccine efficacy modest in the entire cohort? One factor is the apparent lack of efficacy among subjects with evidence of previous exposure to HPV types included in the vaccine. The FUTURE II trial showed no effect of vaccination
  16. ^ Walker; J. (9 October 2005). "UQ Team Defeats Cervical Cancer". The Courier-Mail. Ian Frazer's break-through vaccine is 100 per cent effective against the most common form of the virus that causes cervical cancer, according to final-stage trial results [...] a delighted Professor Frazer, 52, said last night: 'It is very rare, almost unheard of, to achieve a 100 per cent efficacy rate in any treatment, so these results are truly wonderful.'
  17. ^ Estimates of the contemporary global mortality rate have remained in the 190,000 to 300,000 range from 2000 to 2010. The 2007 WHO progress report says that preventable cervical cancer "was responsible in 2005 for up to 500,000 new cases, and up to 257,000 deaths, more than 90% in low- and middle-income countries", but, "According to WHO’s projections, deaths from cervical cancer will rise to 320,000 in 2015 and to 435,000 in 2030" (p.4). These projections may be little effected by vaccination programs (anyway unlikely on cost grounds) because "A reduction in cancer incidence and mortality might not be measurable before 10 to 30 years after the vaccine is introduced." (p.5). Other estimates of the problem's scale are broadly in agreement:
    • Kennedy, F. (25 January 2006). "UQ Australian of the Year Will Continue Fight for Women's Health". UQ News. Professor Frazer said Australia and other developed nations had effective Pap smear programs to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. 'Despite this, cervical cancer continues to be a shocking disease for women in the developed world. Women living in poverty in the developing world, where Pap smears are not widely available, account for most of the 250,000 deaths from cervical cancer each year. So this vaccine has the potential to do most good in the developing world, where it could help lift women out of poverty by relieving the burden of disease
    • "Transcripts – Professor Ian Frazer". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Ian Frazer was made Australian of the Year in 2006. He and his team at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane have developed a vaccine to beat cervical cancers that kill 250,000 women a year worldwide.
    • "Cervical Cancer Statistics". CervicalCancer.org. 2 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2010. A woman dies of cervical cancer approximately every 2 minutes. In less developed countries, this type of cancer is the second most common in women and accounts for up to 300,000 annual deaths.
  18. ^ Kantrowitz, Barbara (15 March 2010). "Message in a Bottle The subtle ads for drug giant Glaxo's new cervical-cancer drugs have people talking". Newsweek. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Cervarix may also protect against other types that cause cervical cancer, but more research is needed to confirm this. ... GlaxoSmithKline's] estimate of the prevalence of cervical cancer in United States roughly matches the National Cancer Institute's statistics. But according to the World Health Organization, the disease is far more common in developing countries, which account for 80 percent of the annual cases worldwide and about 190,000 deaths a year (compared to about 4,000 deaths in United States).
  19. ^ Chen, Huanhuan; Wang, Danhong (22 October 2007). "An interview with Jian Zhou's wife, Dr. Xiaoyi Sun". Science Times.
  20. ^ a b Siers-Poisson, Judith (18 July 2007). "Profit Knows No Borders, Selling Gardasil to the Rest of the World". Center for Media and Democracy. Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. The federal government will also cover young women who are not in school and are still under 27 years through their general practitioners and community immunization clinics. This age group will receive the vaccine free from July 2007, until the end of June 2009.
  21. ^ a b Beran, Ruth (21 June 2006). "Ian Frazer's patent problem". Australian Life Scientist. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Jian Zhou died in 1999, but he was an equal partner
  22. ^ Frazer, I. (November 2007). "Correlating immunity with protection for HPV infection". International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 11. Elsevier: S10–S16. doi:10.1016/s1201-9712(07)60016-2. PMID 18162240. with no breakthrough HPV infections due to waning immunity, the minimum protective anti-HPV antibody level could not be ascertained. Nevertheless, antibody titer has been used as a surrogate marker of protection in clinical trials, particularly in adolescent populations in whom efficacy studies are not feasible. (The 100% efficacious immunity is against HPV 16 and 18-related cervical cancer indicators.)
  23. ^ Crager, S. E.; Guillen, E.; Price, M. (2009). "University Contributions to the HPV Vaccine and Implications for Access to Vaccines in Developing Countries" (PDF). American Journal of Law & Medicine. 35 (2–3): 253–79. doi:10.1177/009885880903500202. PMID 19697749. S2CID 10603131. Evaluating the ability of a vaccine to induce a specific immune response is far less complex, less costly, and less time-consuming, than performing clinical trials to assess the ability of the vaccine to confer protective immunity.
  24. ^ Pollard, Ruth (9 September 2006). "One small jab, but a giant leap for womankind". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2006. It will mean a 70 per cent reduction in abnormal pap smears, and in parts of the world where there are no pap smears, a 70 per cent reduction in cervical cancer."
  25. ^ "Australian of the Year Awards – Australian of the Year 2006". australianoftheyear.org.au. Archived from the original on 1 May 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2010. Ian embodies Australian know-how, determination and innovation
  26. ^ Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.
  27. ^ Crawford, C.; Elsworth, S. (20 September 2009). "Ian Frazer defends cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 29 May 2010. "For 23 million doses that have been given out, we received 12,424 reports of adverse events", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study author Barbara Slade said. [...] Of the adverse reports in the US, 772 cases were considered serious
  28. ^ Klein, Renate (21 September 2008). "The Gardasil 'miracle' coming undone?". On Line Opinion, Australia's e-journal of social and political debate. p. 2. Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Frazer: "God's Gift to Women" proclaimed the cover of The Weekend Australian's magazine [...] In Australia, critics are almost perceived as national traitors
  29. ^ Klein, Renate. "The Gardasil 'miracle' coming undone?". p. 1. Archived from the original on 17 October 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2010. It was only on 23–24 February 2008 that the Victorian Cytology Service ran a job advertisement for a 'newly created position' to 'help establish and operate the new National HPV Vaccination Program' (The Australian, 23–24 February 2008). That's 11 months after thousands of school girls had already received the jab.
  30. ^ a b "Queensland scientist profiles > Ian Frazer". Queensland Government. 9 February 2010. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 'What is the most unusual or fun thing you've done in your job?' Being Australian of the Year and carrying the Commonwealth Games torch around Darling Harbour on a boat on Australia Day
  31. ^ "Selected awards". di.uq.edu.au. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  32. ^ "Cervical cancer vaccine research wins CSIRO Eureka Prize (Media Release)". csiro.com. 10 September 2005. Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement. Archived from the original on 15 December 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  34. ^ "Profile on Professor Ian Frazer – Diamantina Institute at The University of Queensland". di.uq.edu.au. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2010. For his creation of the first vaccine designed to protect against a cancer, Ian Frazer receives the Prime Ministers Prize for Science.
  35. ^ "International Balzan Prize Foundation: The Balzan Forum 2008 at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei". balzan.org. Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  36. ^ "Ian Frazer wins AMA gold medal for work on cervical cancer vaccines". Australian Medical Association. 31 May 2009. Archived from the original on 8 December 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Through the development of vaccines, Ian has helped protect the lives of countless women
  37. ^ "Professor Ian Hector Frazer FRS". Royal Society. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  38. ^ "Professor Ian Hector Frazer FRS CorrFRSE". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  39. ^ Farrow, Lauren (5 March 2012). "Seven added to national living treasure list". Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  40. ^ "Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC)" (PDF). The Queen's Birthday 2012 Honours Lists. Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia. 11 June 2012. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2012.
  41. ^ "Cervical cancer vaccine inventor to target herpes". 3 February 2014.
  42. ^ "About TRI". Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  43. ^ "Cancer Control in the 21st Century". James Cook University. 25 May 2010. Archived from the original on 16 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  44. ^ Leng, Lay (November 2008). Candace, Lim (ed.). "FEATURE: Vaccinating against Cancer". Innovation. 7 (3). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing & The NUS. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2010. According to Frazer, the opportunity for vaccine improvement comes from novel adjuvants [...] and recombinant DNA
  45. ^ Kelly, James (30 March 2010). "Vaccine doctor's good news". Stateline Queensland. ABC. Retrieved 29 May 2010. It's not exactly the same virus and therefore the vaccine we already have will not protect against that particular cancer. But the technology that we've used to develop a vaccine for cervical cancer should in principle be possible to use for prevention of some skin cancers.
  46. ^ "Scientist Ian Frazer close to creating skin cancer vaccine". Brisbane Times. 16 November 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2010. If we can get encouraging results we will try and push it on as fast as we can. It's really a given that we try to focus on health problems that are significant ones.
  47. ^ "Professor Ian Frazer wins Prime Minister's Prize for Science". Cancer Council Australia. 17 October 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2010. Sometimes it seems almost impossible to believe that something we did all those years ago could have such a dramatic impact on so many people
  48. ^ "Ian Frazer honoured by major Fellowship". coridon.com. 6 June 2004. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2010. I saw becoming a fellow of the AAS as recognition received towards the end of a career, whereas I see myself working in research for a lot longer yet
  49. ^ "Fellowship | AAHMS – Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences". www.aahms.org. Archived from the original on 29 June 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2018.

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