the Melbourne skyline with lake in foreground
the Melbourne skyline with lake in foreground

New Australian Center Will Develop Therapies for Future Pandemics

Launched with a $172 million philanthropic donation and funds from the state of Victoria, the Melbourne-based research institute aims to construct drug discovery platforms to speed the introduction of new therapies.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Aug 31, 2022

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Australia’s largest-ever philanthropic donation for medical research will fund a new center dedicated to laying the groundwork for developing therapies to fight future pandemics, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity announced today (August 31). The new Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics (CGCPT) will be part of the Doherty Institute, which is a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The newly announced center is named for Geoffrey Cumming, a businessman who lives in Melbourne and, according to Science, made his fortune in energy. He is contributing 250 million Australian dollars (US$172 million) to the center, while the state of Victoria is chipping in AU$75 million (US$51 million). 

Cumming, who was born in Canada and holds Canadian and New Zealand citizenship, has made donations to medical research before, notes The Guardian, including a CA$100 million contribution to the University of Calgary in 2014. His desire to now prioritize therapies stems from his observations earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, when “What struck me was how quickly we could make vaccines, and how slow we were with antivirals,” Cumming tells Science

“Far too little has been invested in therapeutics,” Bruce Walker, an immunologist and infectious disease researcher at Harvard Medical School, tells Nature. “Most other efforts are focused on the development of vaccines, but vaccines are not always the solution,” he says—for example, no vaccine is yet available for HIV, but it is now a treatable condition thanks to therapeutics.  

The CGCPT will be part of the Australian Institute for Infectious Disease, which is set to launch in 2027, according to a Doherty Institute fact sheet. The CGCPT will focus on developing new platform technologies that can be used to rapidly develop or adapt drugs to target novel pathogens. 

“Our objective is to be a globally top pandemic therapeutic research centre,” Cumming says in the Doherty Institute’s announcement. “We aim to create solutions to minimize the impact of future pandemics and thereby create greater societal resiliency internationally in the decades ahead.”