Getting success after thousands of failures

Posted at: TUEsday - 18/03/2014 11:25 - post name: Nguyễn Thị Thùy

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan. Photo: VGP/Thuy Ha

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan. Photo: VGP/Thuy Ha

That was statement of Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan, Deputy Director of the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals, about the results of that after 16 years of researching, she and her colleagues succeeded in producing a Rotavin-M1 vaccine to prevent diarrhea in children.

After 16 years of researching, in August 2012, it was the first time an anti-diarrhea Rotavin-M1vaccine for children, which was completely produced in Vietnam, has been brought to the market, marking the success of Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan and her colleagues. Also, this is a huge achievement of the Preventive Medicine in particular and National Medicine in general.

With this success, Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan had an honor of being one of two Vietnamese female scientists winning the Kovalevskaia Awards 2013.

Reporter of the VGP News had a discussion with Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan on herself as a female scientist.

Could you tell us how did you feel when you received the Kovalevskaia Awards 2013 – an internationally meaningful award in order to honor collective and individual female scientists with economically and socially valuable research works, highly applied in the practice?

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan: This is the greatest award in my career. I was so touched and surprised when winning the noble award. Since embarking on identifying myself with the subject of vaccine research (1999), I have expected most to cerate an anti-diarrhea vaccine for children, because at that time, there were a great number of children hospitalized due to having diarrhea caused by Rota virus throughout the country, especially in wintertime.

When hearing that I won the Award, my friends and colleagues shared the joy with me. The award recognized the outcomes of working, learning and researching vaccine my co-workers and I got over years, simultaneously it is the motive promoting many people to follow the scientific research road.

To have the success as now, you and your colleagues experienced 16 years of researching the subject. During that process, what difficulties did you meet?

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan: As a scientist, everyone decides to go through the failures but be patient to get success.   

The best basic difficulty in this subject is to create a strains system. That period take us 4 years to establish, because Rotavin virus characterized as difficult to grow on the cell, especially existing cells used for vaccines according to WHO’s recommendations.

In the initial 2 years, I cloned dozens of virus strains on that cell, but unsuccessful. Although I determined vaccine research is a difficult subject, even in some cases, it is successful up to 99% but failed in the last minute, I am still discouraged.

However, after those failures, I received professional, financial, as well as material support from international experts, and then we established a Rota strains system, the most important materials for producing Rota vaccines in Vietnam, after 4 years of research.

Since the acceptance of subject (2005), how have you evaluated the efficiency of subject in the practice?

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan: This research work got support from Ministry of Heath and Ministry of Science and Technology. The statements we gave out are evaluated by the Council as being highly applicable and updated. The products from start to finish got constant approvals of the Council, catching up with rate of progress.

According to assessment of the specialists, the subject successfully developed the technology process of manufacturing and testing Rotavin vaccines on Vero cell in the laboratory meeting the WHO’s standards. The work’s results are a turning-point in the vaccine sector that it is the first time Rotavin vaccines have been produced successfully in our country using a trains system set up based on domestic strains with international technology.  

Since August 2012, this vaccine has been put into use to prevent diarrhea in children. Up to now, nearly 100, 000 children in 60 provinces and cities have had chance to take this vaccine without incident. The WHO made recommendations that this vaccine should be introduced into the national expanded program on immunization.

After this subject, are you going to carry out any research works on vaccines?

Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan: Currently, we are continuing to study the polio vaccine. So far, this vaccine has been tested over the preclinical stage and when clinical preparation is successful, it will be applied in the human being. Moreover, we are also doing study on hand-foot-mouth vaccines. For all of these researches, I am the maker of standard plans and procedures of each research work, in order to direct my colleagues to implement, because each kind of vaccine will has different characteristic.

Many colleagues and students have joined research subjects with me as yet.

Thank you so much!

The research work to create Rotavin virus strains of Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan (born in1962) together with her colleagues helped Vietnam take initiative in generating input material resources for production of Rotavin vaccines without technology transfer or import. This vaccine was granted patent and utility solutions by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (Ministry of Science and Technology)

This success also affirms that Vietnam is the second Asian country and one of 4 international countries (after U.S., Belgium, and China) producing Rota vaccines by the international updated technology, which brings very highly socio-economic efficiency.

In accordance with health professionals, this work will help to decrease nearly 7, 000 deaths per year of children below 5 years old and about 140,000 hospitalizations of children due to having diarrhea caused by Rotavin virus.

At present, along with Vietnam’s vaccine to prevent diarrhea due to Rotavin virus are vaccines of Belgium and U.S. (authorized in 2005 and 2007). However, the vaccines manufactured by Prof. Dr. Le Thi Luan and her colleagues have a cost of 1/3 of the two vaccines above but the same quality. 
Rota vaccines are cheaper at the price because they are manufactured completely without import of input materials.

 Translated by Nga Nguyen


Author: Thuy Ha
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