Audio Ian Frazer discusses the cervical cancer vaccine, 2008

TLF ID R8858

This is an edited sound recording of the Australian medical scientist Ian Frazer discussing how he and his colleague Jian Zhou developed the first vaccine to prevent and treat cervical cancer. He describes their breakthrough laboratory discovery in 1990, and how they realised a vaccine was possible. He also tells of the lengthy process of testing and clinical trials that were necessary to prove that the vaccine could work. The recording was made in February 2008 and lasts for 1 min 40 s.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording provides a first-hand description of the research work that led to the world's first vaccine against cervical cancer. In 1990, Frazer (1953-) and Jian Zhou (1957-99) were using DNA technology to produce the human papillomavirus (HPV) when they made the discovery that led to development of the vaccine. HPV are a family of more than 100 viruses including those causing warts and those associated with tumours of the genital tract including cervical cancer.
  • As the recording reveals, this significant scientific discovery was made almost by chance. Frazer states that it was 'rather unexpected' to discover that he and Jian Zhou had found a way of 'tricking' the cells, the building blocks of the virus that causes cervical cancer, to assemble themselves into the virus. He tells how the discovery meant that enough of the virus could be produced to make into a vaccine on a commercial scale.
  • An extensive process of testing and clinical trials must take place before a discovery in the laboratory leads to a medical product that can be released onto the market, and Frazer outlines how two large international pharmaceutical companies conducted clinical trials over 15 years to prove that the vaccine could work. He tells how these trials involved about 60,000 women, 2,000 scientists and a billion dollars.
  • Born in Scotland, Frazer is one of Australia's best-known scientists, having been named Australian of the Year in 2006. He trained as an immunologist in Scotland before migrating to Australia in 1981. After working at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne he moved to Brisbane, where he founded the University of Queensland's Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research.
  • The discovery by Frazer and Jian Zhou has the potential to save many women's lives. About 500 new cases of cervical cancer a year are recorded in Australia, and about 250 deaths from it. Worldwide, every year about 500,000 women develop cervical cancer, and it causes the deaths of about 250,000. The vaccine Frazer and Jian Zhou developed has been proved to be effective against those strains of the HPV known to cause 7 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer.
  • Starting in 2007, the Australian government began providing the vaccine free to all Australian girls and women aged between 12 and 26. The vaccine has been distributed across the world, but is not yet widely available in poorer countries, some of which have high rates of cervical cancer.
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Ian Frazer
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.