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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 April 2019
6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 27 APRIL 2019 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM EUGENIA PAVLOPOULOU "There are cures for every disease, sitting in the fridges". It is a statement that can be easily dismissed as a 'text book' sentence taken out of the Big Pharma conspiracy theory. Hold your horses though rational, intelligent people! This time, the statement is not doing the rounds as a social media meme, but a notion propagated by Professor of Immunology and Vice President of Victoria University's Research Department Vasso Apostolopoulos, a medical science insider and one of the most distinguished scientists of Australia, whose brilliant work and mind has been acknowledged by her colleagues internationally. If all goes according to plan, in about two years Professor Apostolopoulos will change the world by offering every woman - and man - who has been scarred by breast cancer, a vaccine. She will then officially enter the pantheon of scientists as one whose brilliant mind, hard work and dedication to knowledge has improved the living conditions of dozens - if not hundreds - of millions of people. Seeing her on the Nobel nominees list might not come as a surprise to many. "Following clinical trials and the study of long-term clinical trial data, we are pleased to know that breast cancer vaccine can prevent cancer from returning. Also, this active substance we developed has been given to a company that will develop it into a vaccine that will be given to young women so that they never develop breast cancer. Therefore, the vaccine is now in the production phase and, like the cervical cancer vaccine, will be given to girls from the age of 13 years. Of course, it is up to the company to see when it comes to the market. I will say very cautiously that I will put it within the next two years," she said recently, speaking to Neos Kosmos. She does not hide her enthusiasm when I ask her how she feels in the face of this development. About eight months ago she was in Greece to participate in the 19th Medicinal Chemistry Conference held in Amaliada, the birthplace of her parents. She was the honoured scientist of the event. As a consequence, she was admitted and guided to the presidential palace by President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pav- ‘There are cures for every disease sitting in the fridges’ Dr Vasso Apostolopoulos, officially announces that the lifesaving breast cancer vaccine she developed 22 years ago is on its way Vasso Apostolopoulos believes that there’s a cure for every disease and is doing her best to find them. NEW FRONTIERS I got goosebumps, this woman was not the faceless statistics I see and observe on my daily routine. This was a real person. And she thanked me. That was one of the best moments in my life. You know! I know the results of the trials but you never speak to people. That was so real lopoulos. She refers to this experience with somewhat subdued enthusiasm. "It was all right," she says, but her voice's tone becomes ostensibly more passionate when I ask her about her experience in general from her trip in Greece. She focuses with succinct detail on the short conversation she had with a lady who had gone to listen to one of the speeches she gave. "This lady came up to me and asked me about my mum and if she went to a certain High School. I said 'yes that's mum and yes she did go to that High School'. 'We were best friends in high school with your mum,' she said and then she started exclaiming, 'Oh my God, you are Hariklia's daughter!', hugging me as well and saying to me, 'I am so proud of you. You know 20 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had young children, I was devastated. I was so sure that I was not going to see my children grow up. My only hope was your vaccine. So I took part in one of the trials and I am here Vasso Apostolopoulos with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos today because of you,' she said. I got goosebumps, this woman was not the faceless statistics I see and observe on my daily routine. This was a real person. And she thanked me. That was one of the best moments in my life. You know! I know the results of the trials but you never speak to people. That was so real". She goes on to speak with the same warmth about the Greek community. For all of those, known and unknown who about 20 years ago, when Dr Apostolopoulos was at the first stage of her breast cancer vaccine research working at the Austin Hospital Research Institute were mobilised to help her take her research many Her dedication to science, in conjunction with her fierce determination to leave this world a better place than the one she found when she started as a young scientist, is the driving force behind her research choices. In addition to her duties as Vice-President of Victoria University's Research Department as a professor who supervises PhD students, a leading researcher who has under her wing a significant number of other colleagues, "Our Vasso" - as many in our community call her - in recent years, and in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Chemistry from University of Patras is working on the development of a Multiple Sclerosis vaccine. "In the coming months we start clinical trials on humans of an active substance that we hope will eventually develop into a Multiple Sclerosis vaccine. Pre-clinical animal tests have been successfully completed and the active substance is currently undergoing the process of copyright protection. Clinical trials in humans steps further. "Between 1995 to 2000 the Greek community of Australia, but mainly in Melbourne, were doing a lot of fundraising, giving money for this particular project. We used that money to do all the early clinical testing, done in humans. I really appreciate that the Greek community really supported me and gave a lot of money for the research in order for the vaccine to be in this stage today. I want to thank them for the trust they showed me. If it wasn't for them that part of my research would have never been possible. You see there are cures for every disease but the problem is the funding or more accurately the absence of it. As researchers, we find the cures and we do the testing but to take that further into humans and to commercialise and have it as product, you need millions and millions of dollars. If there is no funding, nothing continues there are lots of vaccines for everything but they are sitting in fridges. I've got 17 patents and 90 sub-patents and there are only three that had been developed, the others are just in the fridge. Trillions of dollars are spent on weapons, not on developing these life saving formulas. That's why I believe that the Greek community's help at the time was crucial".
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