Jack Ma
03 March 2020
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The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) – a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – has been awarded AU$3.2 million (US$2.15 million) by the Jack Ma Foundation through the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation to expedite the creation of a vaccine against COVID-19.

The funding for the Doherty Institute COVID-19 Vaccine Development Initiative aims to find an effective vaccine against the virus that has spread rapidly around the world infecting 90,308 people and killing 3,087 (as at 10.30am 3 March) since the outbreak was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year.

Scientists from the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at the Doherty Institute were the first to grow COVID-19 in the laboratory outside of China, and the first to share it with public health laboratories nationally and globally at the end of January.

Funding for the Initiative will be directed towards three areas, the first of which is an active vaccine platform, the process of stimulating the body to produce antibodies through administration of a vaccine. The second is a passive vaccine platform, which is the direct transfer of antibodies to a non-immune individual, providing temporary protection; and the third, determining vaccine efficacy, safety and readiness for phase one human trials.

Professor Christine Kilpatrick, CEO of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said the organisation was incredibly proud of the work of their leading scientists at the Doherty Institute who have been instrumental in progressing treatment and care for COVID-19.

“This important funding will help continue the efforts of our scientists in finding a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19 as part of the global effort to seek solutions to this worldwide health issue,” said Professor Kilpatrick.

Established by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma in 2014, the Jack Ma Foundation has been primarily focused on supporting projects and initiatives to support education, entrepreneurship, women’s leadership and the environment.

The contribution to the Doherty Institute is part of an overall US$14.4 million (AU$21.9 million) investment the Jack Ma Foundation is making towards research efforts in China and internationally into combatting COVID-19. Last month the Foundation awarded US$2.15 million (AU$3.2 million) to Columbia University to identify potential antiviral drugs and antibodies for use against the virus.

Jack Ma called on all institutes and scientists globally to collaborate with confidence to defeat the current outbreak. “The Jack Ma Foundation and I will exhaust our abilities to provide more help to the development and growth of medical science,” said Jack Ma, founder of the Jack Ma Foundation.

The grant was organised by the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation, established to improve the lives of the Victorian community by contributing urgently needed funding to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Read more about the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation.

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