2012: A Year in Review

Burnet Institute

21 December, 2012

As the year comes to a close, we take this opportunity to reflect on our major news stories of 2012. Exciting events, scientific discoveries, awards and significant milestones made this year one of Burnet’s most successful.


Burnet’s acting Co-head of the Centre for International Health, Professor Robert Power won second prize in The Age short-story award.

A long and dedicated career in the field of international health saw Beverley Snell from the Centre for International Health recognised in the Australia Day Honours with a Medal of the Order of Australia.


The Burnet Institute received a tuberculosis (TB) biomarkers grant through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health program, an initiative which seeks to overcome persistent bottlenecks in creating new tools that can radically improve health in the developing world.

The Institute’s CD4 T-cell test was showcased in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) flagship publication, Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011, profiling some of the work done by NHMRC-funded researchers who are leading the way in finding innovative solutions to some of the our nation’s greatest health challenges.


With beaming smiles, people from all walks of life in unimaginable outfits turned out for a fabulous day of fun, adventure and laughs – the Melbourne City Romp.

Liz Hill, the Global Health Collaborative Leader for Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International outlined a number of reasons and examples of how the two institutes could collaborate successfully during a visit to the Institute.


Burnet Institute researchers discovered one of the important ways dendritic (immune) cells recognise dead and damaged cells. This research improved our understanding of how the immune system recognises danger, and could significantly improve the effectiveness and side effects of vaccines in the future.

Professor Crabb joined Burnet’s Head of the Centre for Immunology, Professor James Beeson to write a perspective in high profile journal, Nature, highlighting the need to build research capacity in malaria endemic countries.


Professor James Beeson, Head of Centre for Immunology and Dr Damien Drew, Senior Postdoctoral Research Officer, won a Grand Challenges Exploration – an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are pursuing an innovative global health and development research project, titled Novel platform to accelerate vaccine development against Plasmodium vivax malaria.

The Institute lent their expertise to the University of Indonesia by training staff in HIV drug resistance testing (HIVDR) and performing an audit of their laboratory through the World Health Organization (WHO) Indonesia.


A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed hepatitis C (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs could be halved over 30 years if more were treated.

Muriel Aldunate, a Research Assistant in the Tachedjian Laboratory was awarded the Burnet Institute Infectious Diseases and Public Health Research Award for her presentation, ‘The Mechanism of Action of the Dendrimer Microbicide SPL7013 Against HIV’ at the ASMR Student Research Symposium. July

A team of 13 researchers and scientists from Burnet went to Washington to present their latest work and discuss the issues around HIV/AIDS with other leading experts from around the world at the International AIDS Society Conference, AIDS 2012.

After six years of development in the laboratory, the Burnet Institute’s innovative point-of-care (POC) CD4 test was officially launched at AIDS 2012.
A Burnet Institute project using the point-of-care (POC) CD4 Test won a Grand Challenges “Saving Lives at Birth” grant, jointly funded by USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Burnet Phd student Nitasha Kumar was awarded the prestigious International AIDS Society (IAS)/Agence National Recherche de SIDA (ANRS) Young Investigator prize at AIDS 2012 in Washington.


Researchers at the Institute made a major breakthrough in the quest for a vaccine against malaria, which causes up to one million deaths each year. Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, this research revealed a key target of the immune system’s attack against malaria.

The Institute officially launched the Sir Zelman Cowen Fellowship Fund at the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce in front of more than 800 guests including The Hon Ted Baillieu MP, Premier of Victoria. The Fund named in honour of the late Sir Zelman Cowen, former Governor-General of Australia and Patron of the Burnet Institute will provide support to Australian researchers with a focus on improving women’s and children’s health, especially in resource-poor settings.

Researchers solved a hepatitis C vaccine mystery which, once developed could be the first ever preventative vaccine for the virus. Currently undergoing formal preclinical studies, the vaccine is the result of breakthrough work done by Associate Professor Heidi Drummer with her team from the Institute’s Centre for Virology.


The successful long-standing partnership between the Burnet Institute and the University of Papua New Guinea was formalised at the Medical Society of Papua New Guinea’s Annual Medical Symposium held in Port Moresby.Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Papua New Guinea’s Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor Sir Isi Kevau.

Scientists discovered an important mechanism in which a synthetic DNA targets the immune system that could significantly improve the effectiveness of future vaccines. This cutting edge research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.


Doubling investment into health and medical research and building stronger links between research and healthcare were two of the key the recommendations in the draft McKeon Review into Health and Medical Research.

Researchers discovered how pregnant women’s immune systems respond to malaria, which may lead to a long-lasting pregnancy-specific vaccine. The research, led by Dr Freya Fowkes, Head of Malaria and Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Burnet, found that the immune responses to different malaria proteins in pregnancy wane relatively quickly, so may not be effective in providing long-term protection against malaria.


Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb was elected President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) and will lead the organisation for the next two years as the medical research sector faces some of the most significant strategic challenges to its future.

Chinese Health Minister, Mr Chen Zhu and the Australian Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Ms Frances Adamson praised the achievements of the China-Australia Health and HIV/AIDS Facility (CAHHF) at the official closing ceremony.


In a world first, a Melbourne researcher proved HIV not only affects the function of immune cells in humans but affects how these cells metabolise energy. The finding could lead to new drugs that delay the start of anti-retroviral therapy and strengthen immune systems for some HIV-positive people at a higher risk of life-threatening diseases.

A training microbiologist from the National Health Laboratory in Dili, spent time training at the Burnet Institute through a new collaboration that will improve malaria treatment for the 120,000 people that contract the disease every year in Timor-Leste. The Institute’s malaria researchers Dr Jack Richards and Mr Andrew Guy have assisted Ismael Baretto to learn a new assay that identifies an important genetic enzyme deficiency that occurs in red blood cells.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Burnet Institute




Subscribe to News

Subscribe to receive our latest news: