2013: Year in Review

Burnet Institute

20 December, 2013

2013 Year in Review

As the year comes to a close, we take this opportunity to reflect on our major news stories of 2013. Exciting events, scientific discoveries, awards and significant milestones made this year one of Burnet’s most successful.

Burnet Deputy Director, Professor Mike Toole AM was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to international health, particularly through leadership in medical research.

A team of volunteers spent Australia Day surveying the risk behaviours of a record number of young people at the Big Day Out (BDO) music festival for the ninth year in a row in Melbourne.

They gathered more than 1600 surveys (in four hours) from young people attending the concert about sexual health and drug and alcohol use.

Burnet Board member Natasha Stott Despoja AM was in awe when she met her political heroine Aung San Suu Kyi as part of a visiting Burnet Institute delegation to Myanmar. The delegation, which also included Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb, Burnet Chairman Alastair Lucas AM and local Burnet staff, talked about the health problems facing the country as it emerges from decades of military rule.

The delegation also met with Myanmar Government senior health officials to discuss key health challenges facing the country.

Burnet Institute delegation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Melbourne researchers moved a step closer to finding a cure for HIV by successfully luring the ‘sleeping’ virus out of infected cells. Led by Burnet’s Co-head of the Centre for Virology, Professor Sharon Lewin the research shows the cancer drug vorinostat alters how HIV genes are turned on and off, essentially waking up virus that persists in patients on standard HIV treatment.

Head of HIV Research at the Burnet Institute, Dr Mark Stoové was selected to join the Victorian Government’s newly created, gay and lesbian advisory group.

Dr Michael Roche from the Gorry Laboratory was awarded a prestigious Monash University Mollie Holman Medal.

Burnet’s Centres for Virology and Immunology merged into the Centre for Biomedical Research, heralding a new era of integration for its laboratory-based researchers and creates exciting opportunities for potential vaccine and diagnostic development.

Burnet’s Day of Immunology ‘Discovery Tour’ attracted science fans aged six to 85 years who were keen to meet our talented immunologists and go ‘behind the scenes’ on a tour of the dendritic research and malaria laboratories.

Burnet officially launched its Healthy Mother’s Healthy Babies Program in Papua New Guinea at a high-level private dinner in Port Moresby.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Bob Carr joined his counterpart in Papua New Guinea, the Hon. Rimbink Pato to urge further support for women’s and children’s health at the dinner.

Burnet Institute Board Chair, Mr Alastair Lucas, Senator the Hon. Bob Car, the Hon. Rimbink Pato and Professor Brendan Crabb at the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies dinner in Port Moresby. Photo courtesy of Lynton Crabb Photography.

Burnet released the ‘North Richmond Public Injecting Impact Study’, based on research undertaken on the streets of Richmond and Abbotsford, which revealed increasing health risks for people who inject drugs and significant community concern over the impact of injecting in public areas.

Outstanding HIV researcher Associate Professor Mark Stoové was presented with the prestigious 2013 Gust-McKenzie Medal at the Burnet Institute’s AGM.

HIV research scientist, Associate Professor Melissa Churchill was awarded a coveted National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for her ground-breaking work on HIV in the brain.

Exceptional young malaria researcher from the Beeson Laboratory Dr Michelle Boyle was one of three Victorian scientists presented with a prestigious Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research Commendee Award.

Tuberculosis (TB) experts from Australia and the Asia and Pacific region were updated on Burnet’s progress in developing a point-of-care test for the debilitating disease that globally kills 5000 people each day.

Associate Professor David Anderson, Deputy Director of the Burnet Institute and Head of the Diagnostics Development Laboratory, presented his latest research at the Advances in TB: Australian and Regional Perspective Symposium in Melbourne.

Burnet Institute reflected on the global response to HIV and AIDS at a special function held at Parliament House. Guest speakers included the Federal Minster for Health, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Senator the Hon Christine Milne and long time Burnet supporter and leading Australian philanthropist Mr Harold Mitchell AC.

An innovative vaccine project that uses crystals to stimulate the immune system to protect against viruses such as HIV and influenza received Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Head of Burnet Institute’s Viral Immunology Laboratory, Dr Rosemary Ffrench collaborates with Dr Fasseli Coulibaly from the Monash School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor Lorena Brown from the University of Melbourne on the project.

Burnet researchers and the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research found new targets for a malaria vaccine after studying 200 children in PNG to see how their immune systems had responded to malaria parasites commonly found in the region.

Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon David Davis MP delivered a significant boost to medical research in Victoria by officially launching the Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre.

Burnet Laos was honoured for their outstanding contribution to the National Vaccination Program and awarded the Prime Minister’s Labour Medal for Excellence in Social Development.

Australia’s first shop front rapid HIV testing clinic, PRONTO!, was officially opened for business by Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon. David Davis.

PRONTO! is a collaboration between Burnet Institute and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC). It provides a quick HIV test with a simple pinprick blood test with results back in 20 minutes.

Matt Dixon (VAC/GMHC), Jackie Fristacky (City of Yarra), David Anderson, Clem Newton-Brown, David Davis and Mark Stoove launch PRONTO!

Head of Burnet’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Group, Professor Paul Dietze’s contribution to public health was recognised with the Institute’s prestigious Fenner Award.

Burnet Institute announced the registration of a new company in China, Nanjing BioPoint Diagnostic Technology Ltd, established via a grant from the Nanjing government and investment from the Institute.

Based in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu – Victoria’s sister state – the new company will undertake research and development (R&D) of novel diagnostic tools in areas of unmet medical need.

Burnet was awarded more than $7.7million in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Grants. Professor Crabb said it is a wonderful outcome for the Institute, having received 14 separate grants and fellowships.

Dr Michael Roche from the Centre for Biomedical Research was awarded the prestigious Frank Fenner NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.

The Frank Fenner Early Career Fellowship is awarded to the highest ranked applicant from the Biomedical or Public Health Early Career Fellowship category whose research focus is in an area of international Public Health application, and best reflects the qualities exemplified in Professor Fenner’s career.

Burnet research found girls aged 12 to 15 years are testing positive for chlamydia at a higher rate than older women – Dr Carol El-Hayek presented the research at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Darwin.

Head of Burnet’s Malaria and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group, Dr Freya Fowkes received a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship, identifying her as one of Australia’s most outstanding researchers.

Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP met with Burnet Institute researchers and Gabi Hollows from The Fred Hollows Foundation in Colombo, Sri Lanka to hear about the ‘Better Vision and Healthy Ageing’ research program.

Image courtesy of Andy Nilsen, The Fred Hollows Foundation

Nobel Laureate, Dau Aung San Suu Kyi officially opened the International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne in 2014 at a special event at Government House on World AIDS Day.

Our Patron-in-chief, The Honourable Mr Alex Chernov AC QC, Governor of Victoria visited Burnet to meet with our leading scientists, public health researchers and management team.

Head of Burnet’s China Program, Lisa Renkin received a prestigious Victorian Government Hamer Scholarship for an intensive Chinese language training course at Nanjing University.

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