Doherty Institute to lead the research effort against infectious diseases

September 14 / 144

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on a tour of the Peter Doherty Building
Prime Minister Tony Abbott on a tour of the Peter Doherty Building

Australia’s capacity to play a lead role in the global response to known and emerging infectious diseases has been boosted enormously with the launch of the Doherty Institute, opened by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday 12 September.

The Institute, named for University Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, is a $210 million partnership between the University and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The 10-storey, state-of-the-art building in the heart of the Parkville biomedical precinct will house more than 700 health professionals developing new ways to track, diagnose, treat and prevent the world’s most significant infectious diseases.

The Doherty Institute will maintain a major focus on diseases that pose serious public health threats locally, regionally and globally such as HIV, viral hepatitis, influenza, tuberculosis and drug-resistant bacteria.

Inaugural director Sharon Lewin said the establishment of the Doherty Institute would transform infectious diseases research, training and care in the Australian, regional and global health communities.

“Our brief is clear – to become a regional and global leader in research on the prevention of, treatment and elimination of infectious diseases,” Professor Lewin said.

“The partners who make up the Doherty Institute include laboratories that conduct some of the best fundamental infection and immunity science in the world, public health laboratories that are centres of excellence and reference laboratories for our state, country and region.

“We have experts in public health and epidemiology and clinicians who are highly skilled in treating patients with infectious diseases.”

Professor Lewin is recognised as one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of HIV cure and she and her team will continue that work in her new laboratory at the Doherty.

She said staff at the Institute would focus on a multi-disciplinary response to reduce the impact of infectious diseases on health at both the individual and community level.

The Doherty Institute will place great emphasis on translational research and improving clinical outcomes.

Teams of interdisciplinary scientists, clinicians and epidemiologists will collaborate on a wide spectrum of activities - from basic immunology and discovery research, to the development of new vaccines and new preventative and treatment methods, to surveillance and investigation of disease outbreaks.

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Stephen Smith said collaborations with experts in infectious diseases and immunology were key to providing novel treatments and vaccines for new or emerging infectious diseases.

“Through the Parkville biomedical precinct, local, national and international collaborations will lead to new discoveries in infection and immunity,” Professor Smith said.

Melbourne Health Chief Executive Gareth Goodier said the Doherty Institute was another strength within the acclaimed precinct.

“The Doherty will truly provide state of the art capabilities to dramatically accelerate the flow of scientific advances in infectious diseases not just from bench to bedside, but to our local, national and regional communities – and back again,” Dr Goodier said.

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