The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


03 Mar 2020

$6 million-dollar boost to COVID-19 public health response

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and Burnet Institute welcome the Victorian State Government’s support to expedite development of new therapeutics, diagnostics, clinical research and the public health response to the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

The $6 million funding pool will see $2 million distributed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute to assist with the urgent need to identify infected people and to support other pathology departments across Victoria to establish testing for COVID-19.

A new Victorian consortium led by the Doherty and Burnet Institutes will receive $4 million to develop novel diagnostics and point-of-care tests, new therapeutics and to support clinical trials and public health initiatives to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Doherty Institute Director, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin AO, said this tremendous contribution from the Victorian State Government will support VIDRL, Victoria’s frontline diagnostic laboratory, and also bring together leading expertise in Victoria to tackle this global health issue.

“COVID-19 is spreading fast around the world and it demands a global response. This funding will go a long way towards Australia’s ability to build capacity to prevent, detect and control this new virus,” Professor Lewin said.

“The Doherty Institute’s allocation will allow us to build on what we’ve already been able to achieve, with VIDRL being the first laboratory outside of China to grow and share the virus, and to now work with other laboratories to increase Victoria’s capacity to rapidly diagnose infected people. We will also develop better diagnostic tests to understand who is exposed and can clear the virus without symptoms.

“In addition, through this new consortium, we will work with collaborators across Victoria to evaluate and discover novel antiviral drugs that reduce virus replication. Finally, we will fund clinical trials of new antiviral drugs and use mathematical modelling to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the community and our healthcare sector, which will directly inform health system planning.”

Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC said an urgent and highly collaborative research component is essential to an effective COVID-19 response.

“With this support from the Victorian Government, Burnet Institute will extend its already close partnership with the Doherty Institute and other key partners to accelerate the generation of knowledge and new tools that will help minimise the impact of this new infection to our community. Research goes hand in hand with front line responses, one cannot be effective without the other, and Victoria is an international powerhouse when it comes to health and medical research,” Professor Crabb said.

Associate Professor David Anderson, Head, Global Health Diagnostics Development Group at Burnet Institute added:

“We welcome this support to contribute to the global health response to COVID-19 through building on Burnet's extensive experience in translational research and diagnostic development with our partners in Australia, and our spin-off company in China, Nanjing BioPoint Diagnostics. This funding will enable us to use innovative science to fast-track the development of practical solutions, essential in controlling the COVID-19 epidemic,” Associate Professor Anderson said.