Professor Hualan Chen, Laureate 2016 for protecting lives from deadly flu viruses

Thanks to Professor Chen’s research, the world has been protected from pandemics through innovative vaccines. Prof Chen is one of the five L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2016 Laureates.


Professor Chen heads China’s National Avian reference Laboratory in Harbin and in 2013 found herself on the front line as cases of a new and deadly bird flu virus, H7N9, began to appear. Chen and her team tested more than 1,000 samples from soil, water and poultry farms and markets around Shanghai, and when they found

H7N9 in the markets, they were quickly shut down. Her vigilance is the world’s first line of defense and for now, H7N9 which had previously not been known to infect humans is quiet. Surveillance remains Chen’s top priority but she is also renowned for her research in flu and for the development of innovative new vaccines for both humans and animals. In 2013, she was named one of Nature magazine’s ‘Top ten scientists who matter’.


Animals, birds and people can all be infected by flu viruses which constantly mutate, swapping genetic material with each other, so creating new strains with new characteristics. The fear is always that a lethal animal or bird strain acquires abilities to not only jump to humans but also to spread quickly between us. It’s the makings of a worldwide flu pandemic, of the sort that killed more than 40 million people in 1918. Professor Chen protects us through surveillance but she is also known for her ambitious experiments creating flu hybrids. These demonstrated the exact nature of the threats posed by wild emerging flu strains. These experiments and her deep understanding of flu have helped her develop two innovative new vaccines. Her efforts have proven invaluable in both saving human lives and in averting the catastrophic economic costs of livestock epidemics.

A dedicated scientist whose goal has always been to alleviate pain and suffering, Professor Chen has indeed achieved her very noble dream of “using my knowledge, experience, expertise, and technology to try to protect humans and animals from a devastating disease.”

Follow her during the #Forwomeninscience Week from March 21st to 25th on DiscovHER Facebook and Twitter @4womeninscience

For Women in Science

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