Creating a second shield to protect humanity from future pandemics is the principal objective of a new global medical research center being created in Melbourne. Greater resilience for societies around the world in dealing with future pandemics is a core objective and this could save millions of lives in the future.
The establishment of the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics was announced on August 31 by the University of Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, located in Melbourne’s biomedical precinct.
The establishment of the new center is made possible by the exceptional generosity of international businessman and philanthropist, Mr Geoffrey Cumming, a Canadian and New Zealand citizen who lives in Melbourne. Mr Cumming has donated $250 million to the University of Melbourne to establish the new Cumming Global Centre within the Doherty Institute.
This is the largest philanthropic donation to medical research, and one of the largest gifts, in Australia’s history. Initial scoping suggests this new center will likely create in excess of two hundred new, long-term, high purpose, knowledge jobs and build upon the growing international reputation of the Melbourne medical precinct.
The Victorian Government has also contributed significantly to the new world-leading center, initially committing $75 million in funding in recognition of the critical need to advance the science behind therapeutics.
The center will address the critical need to prepare for future pandemics. It will enable the rapid design and testing of new therapeutics, and their delivery to the community within months of a pandemic outbreak. To complement public health measures and in addition to vaccines, an effective pandemic response requires therapeutics for those who contract the disease. The development of new treatments has the potential to transform how the next outbreak is managed, but progress has traditionally lagged when compared to vaccines. Experience from other pandemics, including COVID-19, have shown that therapeutics are critically important in preventing the progression of infections to severe disease, and ultimately in saving lives.
The center will be established in the new $650 million Australian Institute for Infectious Disease, a partnership between the University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute and Burnet Institute, co-funded by the Victorian Government as the major supporting partner.
“An effective pandemic response requires both vaccines and treatments,” Doherty Institute Director, Professor Sharon Lewin said. “But innovation in anti-pathogen therapeutics has lagged in comparison to vaccines, with $137 billion publicly invested globally in vaccines compared to just $7 billion in therapeutics during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics will focus on research in emerging, high potential molecular platforms and computational techniques to develop new therapeutics with unprecedented speed. It will provide long-term support for both junior and senior researchers to tackle big and bold ideas.”