Co-Head, Bacterial Respiratory Infectious Disease Group; Microbiology Lead, Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines & Infectious Diseases
Dr Lea-Ann Kirkham is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and an Honorary Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute where she leads Microbiology research within the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases. Her vision is to develop improved therapies, including vaccines and vaccine schedules, to significantly reduce the global burden of childhood ear and lung diseases.
Dr Kirkham’s PhD research at Glasgow University led to development of a vaccine for pneumonia and meningitis that is currently in clinical trials. Her research on the rise in febrile convulsions after the seasonal influenza vaccine in 2010 contributed to nationwide cessation of a particular ‘flu vaccine for all children under 5 years of age. In 2011, her team’s research on identifying the predominant cause of ear infections in Australian children contributed to introduction of a new vaccine onto the National Immunisation Program. This vaccine has recently been shown to reduce ear infection rates in Indigenous Australian children.
Dr Kirkham currently leads a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)-funded project to develop a probiotic to prevent ear and lung infections. She is also co-investigator on an NHMRC-funded clinical trial in Papua New Guinea comparing different vaccines and combinations of vaccines to find the best approach to protect infants from pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis in PNG. Data from this study will guide vaccine policy for resource-poor countries.