Ex-Malmesbury pupil in top team researching flu vaccine
A MALMESBURY woman is part of a team which hit the national headlines this week when it was announced they had moved science a step closer to developing a universal flu vaccine.
Shaima Begom, who did A Level sciences at Malmesbury School, is doing her Phd and biomedical research at Imperial College London where a study found that people who were able to resist the most severe illness had more virus killing cells.
The team believes a vaccine that encourages the body to produce more of the CD8 T cells could prevent flu viruses, including strains that cross over from birds and pigs, from causing serious symptoms.
Her father Badrul Amin was overwhelmed with pride. “I express my sincerest gratitude and pray to the Almighty Creator to grant my daughter and her scientist team at Imperial College, the strength to find more and more discoveries and cures for the welfare of mankind.”
Mr Amin, a philanthropist who buys badly needed medical equipment for hospitals in his native Bangladesh, offered his “heartfelt admiration and congratulations to the whole team led by Professor Ajit Lalvani and also the Imperial College Trust for the precious resources and support behind this kind of success.”
His daughter paid her own tribute. “I owe a lot of thanks to my family for their support and of course Malmesbury School teachers who inspired me to follow this path of study and become part of an exciting research team at Imperial College London,” she said.
Shaima’s sister Rahima is also a scientist and teaches chemistry at Westonbirt Girls School while her brother Saidul is in the Civil Service. Amina is still a student.
Tim Gilson, head of Malmesbury School where all the children have studied, said he and her teachers were also very proud. “It is incredible. It could be a massive breakthrough,” he said.
“Science is a traditional strength here and it is really nice to see girls coming through and becoming serious scientists.
He said more and more students at the school were choosing to study maths, science and engineering.
“I think the country has, traditionally, punched above its weight in terms of pharmaceutical and scientific research.”
The team at Imperial College used the 2009 flu pandemic to work out why some people were able to resist the worst of the condition.
Scientists asked 342 volunteers among fellow staff and students to donate blood samples as the pandemic was starting and asked them to detail their symptoms over the following two flu seasons.
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