A novel influenza virus of swine origin that emerged in Mexico in April 2009 has spread globally in humans and caused the first pandemic of influenza in the twenty-first century. Our options for controlling the pandemic include the use of anti-influenza drugs and vaccines against this novel influenza virus. William Graeme Laver contributed significantly to both of these strategies. The anti-influenza drugs (Relenza and Tamiflu) that target the viral enzyme were designed on the basis of the three-dimensional structure of the neuraminidase from crystals prepared by Graeme from influenza virus grown in chicken embryos. These drugs have been stockpiled in many countries and are the first option for the treatment of infected persons. The second option, and the preferred one for the control of influenza, is vaccination; Graeme Laver's structural studies on the disruption of influenza virus with mild detergent provided one of the first subunit vaccines, which remains the basis of the influenza vaccine currently prepared in Australia. Our knowledge about the origin of pandemic influenza viruses also comes from the pioneering field work of Graeme Laver. His Australian heritage of adventure in the great outdoors led to studies on influenza in wild migratory birds. These studies laid the foundation for the concept that the wild waterfowl of the world are the natural reservoirs of all influenza viruses. Although Graeme Laver's curiosity was to establish the fundamental properties of influenza viruses, his work translated into humanitarian endeavours relevant today in pandemic planning for influenza.
- © 2010 The Royal Society