The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - a joint venture between the Royal Melbourne Hospital and The University of Melbourne - as well as The Burnet Institute have received $9.2 million dollars in funding from state and private donors in the past 24 hours to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The Victorian Government has awarded $6 million dollars to The Doherty and The Burnet Institutes to expedite development of new therapeutics, diagnostics, clinical research and the public health response to COVID-19.
Of this funding pool, $2 million dollars will be distributed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL), based 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 methods for COVID-19.
In addition to the state’s grant, the Jack Ma Foundation, established by Alibaba Co-Founder Jack Ma, has awarded $3.2 million dollars to The Doherty Institute to expedite the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19.
The grant announcements come after the precinct received global attention earlier this year. Scientists at VIDRL 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.
Doherty Institute Director, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin AO, said that as COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world, the funding will go a long way towards Australia’s ability to build capacity to prevent, detect and control the virus.
“While the path to creating a vaccine is complex, we have the expertise and infrastructure here at the Doherty Institute to take on this task, and now, thanks to the Jack Ma Foundation, the funding to accelerate this significant project,” she said.
“[The state government funding allocation] 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.”
The Jack Ma Foundation grant was coordinated by the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation.