December 2014 | ISSUE 15
A career in science – a first-hand account (Part I)

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By Shobana Balasingam
Clinical Research Coordinator

I have always had an interest in science, even as a child. At school, my favourite subjects were biology and chemistry. I was always asking why things were the way they were, which took me on to how would you test it. It was obvious that I would go on to university to study in the science field and eventually I completed a BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology and then an MSc in General and Medical Microbiology.

My main interest is in influenza human challenge studies, in which volunteers are infected with a safe dose of the influenza virus and disease progression is mapped. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked at a company in London for 11 years that is known for conducting human challenge studies, working closely with Professor John Oxford, an influenza virologist. The experience triggered my interest in how our immune system copes with an influenza infection, what markers and pathways are triggered and how this information can be used to allow for the development of new influenza antivirals and vaccines, particularly pandemic vaccines.

With my colleagues Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith and others, we hope to carry out such studies here in Singapore. My hope is that once our work is established, it will be instrumental in finding a pandemic influenza vaccine in time for the next pandemic outbreak.