Pandemic therapeutics centre announced for Melbourne following historic $250 million donation

Pandemic therapeutics centre announced for Melbourne following historic $250 million donation
Kaylah Joelle Baker

The establishment of Parkville’s very own global centre for pandemic therapeutics has been announced following a significant philanthropic donation from international businessman and philanthropist Geoffrey Cumming.

The donated amount of $250 million to the University of Melbourne to establish the centre within the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, marks itself as the largest philanthropic donation made to medical research in Australia’s history.

Mr Cumming is a Canadian and New Zealand citizen who now resides in Melbourne, and his donation has been remarked as “critical to establishing a centre of this global size, scale, and significance”, according to University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell.

Now appointed the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics, the centre will be dedicated to a 20-year research program and used to develop new technologies to treat future pathogens of pandemic potential.

“This new global medical research centre is conceived as a long-term initiative to provide greater protection for global society against future pandemics,” Mr Cumming said.

“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.”

Mr Cumming said it was also the centre’s objective to become the top pandemic therapeutic research centre globally, and through creating solutions it can help with “minimis[ing] the impact of future pandemics”.

While the centre is being established at the Doherty Institute, it is said that it will eventually be relocated to the new Australian Institute for Infectious Diseases (AIID) which is set to open in 2027.

The $650 million AIID centre has been funded by a $400 million investment from the Victorian Government, along with funding from the University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute and the Burnet Institute.

The government has also backed up the AIID funding with an additional $75 million investment into the establishment of the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics.

“This is an investment in our leading medical researchers to create life-saving therapeutics and vaccines for infectious diseases and help us fight future pandemics,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

A recently released 2022-2032 Health and Medical Research Strategy from the state government outlined a vision for Victoria to continue to be a global leader in medical research, and it seems the funding into both institutes has made this clear.

Acknowledging the “significant contribution” from the government, Doherty Institute director Professor Sharon Lewin also deeply thanked Mr Cumming and his family, labelling the funding a “transformational gift” that will see great changes occur.

“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,” Professor Lewin said.

“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.”

The Doherty Institute is aiming to leverage Mr Cumming’s philanthropic donation over the next 10 years with a goal of raising a total of $1.5 billion already in place. •


Caption: Philanthropists Geoffrey and Anna Cumming, University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell, Doherty Institute director, Professor Sharon Lewin and University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Jim McCluskey.

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