Professors Julie Bines and Graeme Barnes were recently invited to present the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security Ruth Bishop Address following Professor Bishop’s passing earlier this year.

The annual address was established in 2019 and named in honour of the Australian scientist and microbiologist for her leadership and dedication to science and global health.

Professor Bishop ACRuth Bishop 2 led a team of researchers in 1973 to the landmark discovery of rotavirus, a highly contagious disease that can cause severe and life-threatening gastroenteritis.

The team’s discovery was a major breakthrough in tackling one of the most significant causes of infant mortality worldwide and was the catalyst for the successful 30-year endeavour to develop a rotavirus vaccine.

Professor Bines has continued this important work at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne. Professor Bines was recently awarded an Australian Museum Eureka Prize in 2021 for leading the development of the RV3-BB, a vaccine that can prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis from birth, potentially saving thousands of young lives.

“The discovery of rotavirus gave an opportunity to target a protective vaccine and in 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a global recommendation that all children should receive a rotavirus vaccine,” Professor Bines said.

Today 122 countries, including some of the poorest nations in the world, have introduced a rotavirus vaccine into their regional or national immunisation programs.

“Despite the rollout of these vaccine programs, over 58 million children still lack access to a rotavirus vaccine,” Professor Bines said. “And this is particularly an issue for the Indo-Pacific region where around 30 million children are still unvaccinated.”

Professor Bines said the scientific and global community owed a great deal to Professor Bishop for her enormous life’s work.

Murdoch Children’s Professor Jim Buttery also attended the address and said Professor Bishop was a great scientist, inspiring mentor and leader, and wonderful human being.

Professor Bishop’s brother David Langford spoke on behalf of the family and commented on the enormous contributions she made to medical science and to making the world a much better place.

Listen to the Annual Ruth Bishop Address 2022.