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16 Dec 2021

Minister updated on research into Omicron variant, AIID Foundation Partners Agreement signed

Victoria’s Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford today visited the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - one of the Foundation Partners of the new Australian Institute for Infectious Disease (AIID) along with the Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne - to be briefed on the latest public health and research activities underway to better understand the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Doherty Institute Director Professor Sharon Lewin and members of the Doherty Institute team met with Minister Pulford to provide her with the latest evidence emerging from overseas and in Australia on Omicron to help the State Government adapt its response to protect the community.

During the visit, Professor Lewin, Burnet Institute Director Professor Brendan Crabb and University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey signed an AIID Foundation Partners Agreement outlining how the partners will work together to protect the community against future pandemics. The AIID business plan will be completed this month, allowing concept design and architect plans to commence in 2022.

The AIID is being established to harness the collective power of Victoria’s world-leading research excellence in infectious disease, bringing leading institutions together to support scientific discovery and quickly respond to future pandemics to safeguard the state, nation and region.

The AIID facility to be built in the prestigious Melbourne Biomedical Precinct will house the most significant critical mass of scientists, public health professionals, global health practitioners, research programs and platforms in the southern hemisphere.  

The Victorian Government is investing up to $400 million for the AIID headquarters, bringing together an exceptional network of experts from the University of Melbourne, Burnet and Doherty Institutes.

Other partners in the AIID include Monash University, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), CSL Ltd and others to set strategic direction and research priorities.

The facility will enable the Doherty Institute to expand and the Burnet Institute to relocate to the Parkville site and house more than 1000 scientists, academics, students and public health experts from the institutes alongside industry start-ups. Joint-location will strengthen collaboration and engagement with their peers nationally and internationally and create a platform for new partnerships to be forged with the private sector and industry stakeholders. The new AIID facility will boast world-class technology, facilities and research platforms.

Minister Pulford said: “This new institute will strengthen our vital research capabilities and ability to respond to future pandemics and we are immensely proud to stand alongside the founding partners.”

Professor Lewin said: “COVID-19 has proven that preparedness, scientific innovation and collaboration between public health experts, researchers, governments and community are all crucial components of the response to a pandemic. The AIID will significantly strengthen our capabilities across all of these elements through access to the latest technologies and enabling co-location of Victoria’s infectious disease experts.”

Professor Crabb said: “This agreement formalises a big step forward in how the Burnet, Doherty and University of Melbourne commit to living and working together with a shared purpose. Three agencies, but one mission, to help the country and the wider region respond to infectious diseases and pandemics. The scale and possibilities that this partnership presents is way greater than the sum of its parts. It’s very exciting for our future.”

Professor McCluskey said: “The Australian Institute for Infectious Disease and its network of partners will be at the forefront in the national effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and also lead our response to new health threats. This will be an excellent investment for the state and the nation. The AIID will further establish Victoria as a global leader in infectious diseases and public health. The initiative will harness the immense potential of Victoria’s biomedical sector.