By Dr. Betty Lau on behalf of the organising committee
When early career virologists are asked to name an outstanding scientist they admire, one name that repeatedly comes up is Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who is most well-known for his seminal work dissecting the molecular mechanisms of pathogenic influenza and Ebola virus strains, which has considerably aided vaccine development and pandemic preparation.
It was therefore no surprise that when junior researchers of the CVR voted for the winner of the 2018 CVR-Sir Michael Stoker Award this year (named after the first ever chair in Virology), they chose Professor Kawaoka who is jointly appointed at the University of Wisconsin, USA, and he University of Tokyo, Japan. Previous winners of this award include: David Baltimore, Beatrice Hahn, Jon Yewdell, Peter Piot, Vincent Racaniello and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
We were delighted that Professor Kawaoka was able to visit the CVR in late September. Groups of students and post-docs alike were able to engage in fruitful discussions with him about many aspects of his research, such as the logistics of testing Ebola patient samples from Sierra Leone, his career path, running two labs on opposite sides of the world, the challenges involved in researching dangerous viruses (did you know that all his US team members had to undergo FBI checks?). If you want to hear more from Professor Kawaoka then there will be a podcast released very soon!
It was also our pleasure to show Professor Kawaoka our research facilities, including our laboratories, new insectories designed specifically for researching arboviruses, and the new state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscope (which is part of an exciting new venture based at the CVR called the Scottish Centre for Macromolecular Imagining, or SCMI).
During his visit, Professor Kawaoka delivered a fascinating lecture on several facets of his current research, which included the ongoing investigations into the recent Ebola outbreaks and the development of a whole-virus vaccine for Ebola virus. By generating fluorescent influenza viruses (aptly named ‘Color-flu’), Professor Kawaoka was able to study infection live in animals as disease progressed.
Professor Kawaoka was enthusiastic, extremely friendly, engaging and refreshingly humble. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational day for all at the CVR.