2014 in Review: January - June

Angus Morgan

22 December, 2014


More than 90,000 people flocked to Alexandra Gardens in Melbourne to celebrate diversity at Midsumma 2014, Victoria’s festival for the GLBTI communities. Burnet Institute was involved in two main activities - recruiting participants for the COUNT Study and spreading ‘safe sex’ messages through our Burnet mascot - GLOVEMAN!

Burnet received US$1.6 million from UNITAID to kick start field evaluation studies in India and South Africa of VISITECT® CD4, a point-of-care test which determines when an HIV-positive patient should start lifesaving treatment.

Concert-goers fill out Burnet's Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll survey

Burnet celebrated 10 years of public health research at Melbourne’s Big Day Out music festival. Since 2005, Burnet’s Centre for Population Health has surveyed more than 10,000 young people about sexual risk behaviour, alcohol and drug use. This year, new questions about online bullying, sexting and mental health were included to get a snapshot of the prevalence of these issues amongst 15-29 year-olds.


The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI), Australia’s medical research institute peak body, welcomed the release of the National Health & Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) bibliometric report, Measuring Up 2013. AAMRI President and Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb said the report reinforced the strong international standing of Australia’s health and medical research sector, which exceeds world benchmarks in output and impact.

Burnet research highlighted the need for a more equitable approach to HIV drug treatment in Victoria in a bid to reduce financial barriers to treatment. The report, commissioned by Living Positive Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre, found the current system of dispensing medications does not take into account the burden of costs for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Internationally renowned HIV researcher and Co-Head of Burnet’s Centre for Biomedical Research, Professor Sharon Lewin, announced that she would be taking up a new role as the inaugural Director of the Doherty Institute, based at the University of Melbourne.


New insights into how malaria infects human cells were detailed in a Burnet study published in the international journal Infection and Immunity. The research, led by Professor James Beeson and Dr Michelle Boyle, seeks to bypass malaria’s defences as a strategy for the development of vaccines and antimalarial drugs.

Creating change for young women by investing in their education and health was the theme for Professor Margaret Hellard’s keynote address to Burnet’s International Womens’ Day luncheon.

Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb joined a delegation of tuberculosis (TB) experts and health advocates who met with Federal parliamentarians on World TB Day to push for a coordinated response to the TB crisis in the Asia-Pacific. Burnet’s Dr Suman Majumdar warned in particular of the global challenge posed by drug-resistant TB.


The deadly impact of vector-borne diseases was the focus of the 2014 AMREP World Health Day Forum in Melbourne. More than one million people die from vector-borne diseases annually, including more than 660,000 people, mainly young children, from the deadliest form, malaria, transmitted by a single mosquito bite.

Burnet’s Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb and Myanmar Country Representative, Dr Phone Myint Win launched the Institute’s in-country program, Evidence to Action: Burnet Myanmar 2014 to 2016, at a special event in Yangon.

Dr Freya Fowkes

The Head of Burnet’s Malaria Epidemiology Group, Dr Freya Fowkes presented the latest research about malaria resistance in the Asia-Pacific region at a World Health Day Forum in Melbourne in support of World Malaria Day on April 25.

Burnet signed a AUD$5million agreement with GuoMinXinHe Investment Fund, Beijing to develop low-cost diagnostic tests to improve the health of millions of people in China and around the world.


The world’s leading vaccine experts came to Melbourne to discuss emerging concepts in vaccine design and immunotherapeutic drug development at the 2014 Australasian Vaccines & Immunotherapies Development Meeting conference.

Victoria’s first community-based rapid HIV test clinic, PRONTO! celebrated its 1000th test in its nine months of operation. A collaboration between Burnet and the Victorian AIDS Council, PRONTO! provides a quick HIV test with a simple pinprick blood test with results in 15 minutes.

Leading malaria researcher and Head of Burnet’s Malaria and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group, Dr Freya Fowkes was awarded the prestigious 2014 Gust-McKenzie Medal. The medal is presented to an outstanding mid-career Burnet staff member in recognition of excellence in research and/or public health.

Burnet Institute welcomed the Federal Government’s 2014-15 budget investment of a new $20billion Medical Research Future Fund.


Discussion around HIV/AIDS increased in June ahead of AIDS 2014.

Co-Head of Burnet’s Centre for Biomedical Research, Professor Sharon Lewin told the Burnet Director’s Seminar about her latest HIV research and the challenges ahead. Professor Lewin said new therapies have given the world hope of an end to AIDS, but for every single patient who initiates antiretroviral therapy (ART) there is one new infection.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sought to raise awareness of viral hepatitis ahead of World Hepatitis Day on 28 July. The Call to Action to Scale up Global Hepatitis Response was established to demonstrate a shared commitment to viral hepatitis globally.

WHO also called for a stronger focus on adolescent health in a report that revealed road traffic injuries, HIV and AIDS, and suicide as the leading causes of death.

Dr Michael Roche was awarded the prestigious Frank Fenner NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.