October 30, 2017

New Hepatitis B Collaboration Aims to Engage, Educate, and Empower

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has calculated that at least 2 billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) at some point in their lives. Most people experience no symptoms from the virus and their immune systems manage to clear it. More than 3.5% of the global population, however, remain chronically infected (roughly 260,000 people).

The only thing that can break the cycle of hepatitis B transmission is the HBV vaccine. Introduced in the 1980s, the HBV vaccine has dramatically reduced the incidence of hepatitis B and liver cancer around the world. Despite this, hepatitis B remains a significant public health threat. The hepatitis B project, an international collaboration, seeks to build a public engagement platform to foster a better understanding of hepatitis B and the science behind its vaccine. The platform will center on an online exhibition comprised of historical sources, film footage and 3D animations to tell the story behind the HBV vaccine, the first vaccine to protect against a human cancer.

The collaboration is led by Dr. Lara Marks, the creator of WhatIsBiotechnology.org, a UK-based website that uses online and interactive exhibits to educate about biotechnology and how it impacts our lives. Dr. Marks is collaborating with Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Donald Rayne Mitchell, director of the award-winning documentary, HILLEMAN - A Perilous Quest to Save the World's Children; and the European Liver Patients Association, a non-profit organization that raises awareness of liver disease. Engagement with key stakeholder groups including patients, families, practitioners, scientists, advocacy groups and charities lies at the heart of the project. These different groups will share their experiences to guide the development of the digital exhibition content.