One large steppe for liver research

Hard Yak

Hard Yak. From left: Rupert Robey, Centenary's Wil d'Avigdor, Ben Bradshaw and Dimitry Peisakhov

Imagine yourself driving along the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan 4000 m above sea level, or stranded in the Mongolian desert. I certainly can’t, but that’s the point! It’s all part of the Mongol Rally, in which I and three mates are taking part. And besides having a mind-blowingly extreme travel experience, we’ll be raising money for liver research at the Centenary Institute.

G’day, my name is William d’Avigdor and I’m a PhD student supervised by Nicholas Shackel in the Liver Injury and Cancer Laboratory headed by Geoff McCaughan. I study the genetics of the Hepatitis C Virus in humans.  I am also a member of a four-man Australian team, Hard Yak, along with Ben Bradshaw, Dimitry Peisakhov and Rupert Robey, which is set to drive 15,000 km for charity  from London to Mongolia in the 2012 Mongol Rally.

That’s right! On Saturday 14th July Hard Yak will begin travelling a third of the way round the world from London to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. It’s going to take us between four to six weeks—depending on our adventures.  The Mongol Rally is unguided and unsupported. Each team is responsible for selecting its own route and  must be self-reliant. No help is provided by the organisers. It’s no joke. In the past people have been seriously injured and more. But everyone comes home with a lifetime of tales to tell. You can find out more about the Mongol Rally here.

The members of Hard Yak decided to enter the rally because we share a common passion for travelling to destinations ‘off the beaten track’. The team is looking forward to its upcoming adventure, the challenges that will arise, and the opportunity to visit new countries and meet new people.  A further motivation for Hard Yak is to raise money for charity. In addition to liver research at the Centenary Institute, Hard Yak is also fundraising for the Lotus Children’s Centre, Ulaanbaatar, which runs educational and community projects for underprivileged children in Mongolia. Chronic liver damage affects up to one Australian in five. It can often lead to liver cancer, one of the fastest growing diseases in our community. Alcohol is not the only cause! Liver damage can also arise from viral infections (Hepatitis B and C), other toxins than alcohol, and genetic, metabolic and autoimmune diseases.

Clearly, I have an interest in Hepatitis C. There is currently no vaccine for it and it affects more than 170 million people worldwide, including more than 10% of the people of Mongolia!

More information about Hard Yak and the supported charities can be found at