Australian researchers honoured for work in infectious disease prevention

24 November 2022
Experts awarded highest scientific honour in Vietnam
A group of infectious disease experts combating the spread of tuberculosis in Vietnam has been recognised for their tireless research and advocacy, which has spanned over a decade.

The dedication of a group of researchers safeguarding Vietnam against tuberculosis (TB) has been recognised by a national award from the government of Vietnam.

The 2022 Ho Chi Minh Scientific Prize was presented to the Vietnam National Tuberculosis Program, a team of 23 researchers that includes Australian experts. This is the first time the prestigious Ho Chi Minh prize has been awarded to a research team with international researchers.

Award recipients include Australian researchers Professor Greg Fox, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Dr Thu-Anh Nguyen from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney, and Scientia Professor Guy Marks from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Sydney.

The collaboration between the University of Sydney, Woolcock Institute and the Vietnam National Tuberculosis Program goes back more than a decade. It includes developing new strategies with modern medical technology to stop TB spread in its tracks. Their method to detect early stages of TB in a community is now used widely in Vietnam. The researchers have also designed countless treatment and support programs for TB patients.

Vietnam has one of the highest burdens of TB in the world, with over 100,000 people diagnosed with TB per year, with at least 50,000 people remaining undiagnosed.

TB in an infectious disease estimated to affect over 10 million people per year, and second to COVID-19 in mortality caused by respiratory infectious disease.

Dr Thu-Anh Nguyen (second from right) and Professor Guy Marks (second from left) at the awards ceremony.

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott AO said:

“Congratulations to Greg, Guy and Thu-Anh on a remarkable achievement, with their leadership in public health being recognised by the Government of Vietnam.

“Strong international collaboration among scientists is one of the cornerstones of research and innovation. This quality is showcased by the Vietnam National Tuberculosis Program, and the partnership in science between Vietnamese and Australian researchers.  

“We look forward to building on those research ties and engaging more closely with the Vietnamese community.”

Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam, HE Andrew Goledzinowski, said:

“This is a significant occasion, as it marks the first time that the Ho Chi Minh prize has been awarded to a research team that includes international researchers, in this case three remarkable recipients from Australia’s the University of Sydney, the Woolcock Institute, and the University of New South Wales in Sydney. I’m so pleased to see quality research being recognised in this way, especially when it also demonstrates the strong partnership in science between Vietnamese and Australian researchers – and in the lead up to our celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations. The team makes us very proud indeed.”

This research is a testament to what can be achieved when researchers are united in a common goal in the name of public health.
Professor Greg Fox

Professor Greg Fox (right) looking at an x-ray in Vietnam with collaborator Professor Dick Menzies, McGill University .

In accepting the award, Professor Fox said it was an immense honour to receive the award from the Government of Vietnam, and especially meaningful to gain recognition for his work advocating for greater access and equity for tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment in the country.

“It is an incredible honour to receive this prestigious award, as a part of an outstanding team of Vietnamese and international collaborators,” said Professor Fox.

“It is my belief for any infectious disease to be brought under control requires long-term commitment and collaboration of countless researchers and clinicians working in the field, in the community and the lab. It is a privilege to be part of that in the Vietnam National Tuberculosis Program and to continue to dedicate my research to eradicating tuberculosis.

“This research is a testament to what can be achieved when researchers are united in a common goal in the name of public health,” said Professor Fox.

Dr Thu-Anh Nguyen said:

“The findings of our studies have contributed to policy changes not only in Vietnam but also in many other high-burden countries in the world, saving thousands of lives. However, we need to work harder to help the next generation to be free of this preventable infectious disease.” 

Dr Thu-An Nguyen.

Professor Carol Armour, Executive Director, Woolcock Institute said:

"The three researchers have received this award for their long-term commitment to making health better for the people of Vietnam and the region.  Their collaboration across institutions and countries is an example to us all of what can be achieved in research and translation."

The Ho Chi Minh Prize (Giải thưởng Hồ Chí Minh) is a peak national award made in recognition of significant cultural and/or scientific achievements.

The prize is named after President Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of Vietnam and is awarded only once every five years.

The award signifies contributions of national or international significance and is considered one of the highest honours bestowed by the government of Vietnam.

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Ivy Shih

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