Global pandemic therapeutics centre announced in Melbourne
Creating a second shield to protect humanity from future pandemics is the principal objective of a new global medical research centre 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 today by the University of Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, located in Melbourne’s biomedical precinct.
The establishment of the new Centre 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 Centre 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 centre, initially committing $75 million in funding in recognition of the critical need to advance the science behind therapeutics.
The Centre 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 Centre 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.
Quotes attributable to Doherty Institute Director, Professor Sharon Lewin
“The Doherty Institute deeply thanks Mr Geoff Cumming and his family for this transformational gift of $250 million to establish a global centre for pandemic therapeutic research here in Melbourne and also acknowledges the significant contribution from the Victorian Government.”
"An effective pandemic response requires both vaccines and treatments 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. 1”
“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.”
Quotes attributable to University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell
“The University of Melbourne thanks Mr Geoff Cumming for his incredibly generous donation, and the Victorian Government for its contribution to pandemic therapeutic research. Private and public funding is critical to establishing a research centre of this global size, scale, and significance.”
“The Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics is expected to deliver huge benefits for Australia, attracting global talent focused on breakthrough research in the development of treatments that aim to reduce the progression of diseases and ultimately save lives.”
“The Centre will pursue an ambitious research program focusing on treatments that can be rapidly adapted after a new virus is identified. The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in July 2020. If a therapeutic drug had been available at scale in July 2020, in line with COVID-19 vaccine approval, it could have prevented millions of deaths globally.”
Quotes attributable to Mr Geoff Cumming
“This new global medical research centre is conceived as a long-term initiative to provide greater protection for global society against future pandemics. It will attract top researchers and scientists from Australia and around the world, on long-term contracts, in a collaborative medical research effort which is designed to enhance global resiliency.”
“The scale and enduring nature of medical research investment by successive Victorian Governments, the breadth of the talent pool in the ecosystem of the medical research precinct in Melbourne, the collegiality of all the players, together with the success of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic were key reasons for locating the Centre in Melbourne.”
“Our objective is to be a globally top pandemic therapeutic research centre. We aim to create solutions to minimize the impact of future pandemics and thereby create greater societal resiliency internationally in the decades ahead.”
1: KeNUP Foundation report January 2021 (figures in $AUD). Source: Vanderbilt Vaccine Centre, BMGF, Wellcome Trust.