College – Issue 41

THE QUADRANGLE Pandemic plan pioneer Professor Lance Jennings

A man ahead of his time, Old Boy and globally recognised virologist Clinical Associate Professor Lance Jennings (7309) has delivered several of the world’s earliest influenza- control and pandemic- preparation strategies for New Zealand. For nearly 50 years, he has been involved in far-reaching research into respiratory viruses. Appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in recognition of his public service to virology in 2006, Lance continues to be involved internationally and provides national guidance to the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. He also maintains roles as science adviser to Canterbury Health Laboratories, and as an integral member of the Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science at the University of Otago, Christchurch. He credits College for providing a myriad of opportunities to develop his lifelong abilities in leadership, risk assessment and judgment, along with highlighting the need to give back. The Venture Group was an integral part of Lance’s College experience, leading to an enduring love for New Zealand’s mountains. In 2002, Lance co-founded an advocacy charity, the Asia-Pacific Alliance for the Control of Influenza (APACI), aiming to reduce the burden of influenza and boost pandemic preparedness in the region. For seven years until 2020,

at-risk groups in 1999. He also ensured that funding was established for pandemic planning and that New Zealand’s first Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan was published in 1999. It was nationally tested during ‘Exercise Virex’ in 2001 – the first country to attempt this approach; and was the blueprint for the national responses to SARS, avian influenza H5N1, the 2009 influenza pandemic and Covid-19. The National Influenza Scientific Group (NISG) was also established in 2002 to promote influenza vaccine awareness nationally, with Lance continuing as the national spokesperson until 2020. Lance completed his PhD in Virology at the University of Otago, Dunedin, citing his “ability to never say ‘no’, so that when an opportunity arises, you go for it as it usually does not occur again”. “In the 1970s, I carried out a study looking at the natural history – or the epidemiology – of respiratory virus infections in a group of 26 families in the community of Port Chalmers over three years,” he recalls. “One of the outcomes of that study was the identification of a new influenza A variant, the A/Port Chalmers/1/73 (H3N2) virus. It was the second most-important influenza variant after the Hong Kong 1968 pandemic virus. “That discovery established my name in the field of influenza virology, leading to postdoctoral experiences in the United Kingdom, in the Public Health Laboratory Network, Withington Hospital, Manchester, and later in the United States, in the State Hygiene Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

he was also chairperson of a United Kingdom-based scientific charity, the International Society for Influenza and Other Respiratory Virus Diseases (ISIRV), extending its international links through the Asia-Pacific region. In 2010, he was awarded the Christ’s College Leadership Medal. Lance has had extensive experience with the World Health Organization (WHO), having been seconded to the headquarters in Geneva and the Western Pacific office in Manila. He has undertaken several consultancies and missions for measles and influenza surveillance in Europe and Asia. Lance was also a member of the Avian Influenza Outbreak Response and Expert Influenza team in 2004. In New Zealand, he has served on several Ministry of Health and Pharmac advisory committees since 1993. He was responsible for the work that led to the introduction of government-funded influenza vaccine for New Zealanders aged 65 and older in 1997 and to other

Christ’s College Canterbury


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