Global Pandemic Therapy Center announced for Melbourne

Global Pandemic Therapy Center announced for Melbourne

The creation of the Cumming Global Center for Pandemic Therapeutics, designed to create a second shield to protect humanity from future pandemics, was announced today by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne, located in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

The center is made possible through the generosity of international businessman and philanthropist Geoffrey Cumming, a Canadian and New Zealand citizen who lives in Melbourne. Cumming donated $250 million to the University of Melbourne to establish the new Cumming Global Center within the Doherty Institute; it is believed to be the largest philanthropic donation to medical research and one of the largest donations in Australian history. The Victorian government has also contributed significantly to the new centre, initially committing $75 million in funding in recognition of the critical need to advance the science behind the therapeutics.

The center will address the critical need to prepare for future pandemics, enabling the rapid design and testing of new treatments, and their delivery to the community within months of a pandemic outbreak. The development of new treatments has the potential to transform how the next epidemic is handled, but progress has traditionally lagged behind vaccines. The experience of pandemics, including COVID-19, has shown that therapeutics are of critical importance in preventing the progression of infections to serious illnesses and ultimately in saving lives.

The center will be housed in the new $650 million Australian Institute for Infectious Diseases, a partnership between the University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute and the Burnet Institute, co-funded by the Victorian government as lead supporting partner. The initial scope suggests the center will create at least 200 long-term, highly skilled jobs and build on the growing international reputation of Melbourne’s medical precinct.

“The Cumming Global Center for Pandemic Therapeutics is set to bring huge benefits to Australia, attracting cutting-edge research-focused global talent in developing treatments that aim to reduce disease progression and ultimately save lives,” said the vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. Professor Duncan Maskell.

“The center will pursue an ambitious research program focused on treatments that can be adapted quickly after the identification of a new virus. The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in July 2020. If a therapeutic drug had been widely available in July 2020, as per the COVID-19 vaccine approval, it could have prevented millions of deaths worldwide.

“This new global center for medical research is designed as a long-term initiative to provide better protection for global society against future pandemics,” Cumming added. “It will attract the best researchers and scientists from Australia and around the world, under long-term contracts, as part of a collaborative medical research effort designed to improve global resilience.

“The scale and enduring nature of investment in medical research by successive Victorian governments, the breadth of the talent pool in Melbourne’s medical research district ecosystem [and] the collegiality of all involved, as well as Australia’s success during the COVID-19 pandemic, were key reasons for locating the center in Melbourne.

“Our goal is to be one of the best pandemic therapeutic research centers in the world. We aim to create solutions to minimize the impact of future pandemics and thereby create greater societal resilience internationally in the decades to come.

Image credit: iStock.com/Jonathon Marthick-Hone

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