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

Celebrating Five Years of the Doherty Institute


A note about COVID-19

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) - a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital - celebrated its fifth anniversary in September 2019.

This report, Celebrating Five Years, was due to be published in February, but in early January news reports began to surface about a mysterious virus emerging out of Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China.

That virus needs no introduction. SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is something that we’re all too familiar with, changing life as we know it not only here at the Doherty Institute, but the world over.

On Tuesday, 28 January, only a few days after diagnosing Victoria’s first positive COVID-19 case, Director of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory and Deputy Director of the Doherty Institute, Dr Mike Catton, along with Head of the Virus Identification Laboratory, Dr Julian Druce, confirmed they had successfully grown the virus in cell culture in the laboratory. The Doherty Institute was the first to grow the virus outside of China and the first to share it with the World Health Organization and public health laboratories across the globe.

The following day, news of this crucial first step in the response to COVID-19 went global. With access to the virus, researchers could not only validate test results, but also commence work on better diagnostic tests, treatments and a vaccine.

As you will read over the following pages, our team of infection and immunity experts at the Doherty Institute have been training for this moment for years. The Doherty Institute was conceived and purpose-built to respond to a pandemic.

Over the last six months, Dr Catton and his team, along with other diagnostic teams within the Institute, have been continuing to perform tests on suspected cases. Our clinicians have been preparing hospitals and treating patients with COVID-19. Our epidemiologists have been working closely with the State and Federal Governments, executing mathematical models to devise policy to help flatten the curve.

As a new virus, there is no treatment or cure for COVID-19. Our researchers have established clinical trials to identify treatments for the virus, are screening existing drugs for efficacy in the laboratory, are seeking to understand the immune response to the virus, and working on multiple vaccine strategies. In what we call “peace time”, much of this work would take years. But these are extraordinary times and we were prepared.

A full report on our work on COVID-19 to date is underway and we look forward to sharing this with you. Until then, we hope you enjoy reading about our work over the last five years, which has led us to be the powerhouse in infection and immunity we are today.

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