2015 in Review: January - June

Burnet Institute

30 December, 2015

Interest was strong for the PRONTO! rapid HIV testing service at the 2015 Midsumma Carnival in Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens. It was the first time rapid HIV testing had been offered at a Victorian festival or public event.

Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the Australia Day Honours for his contributions to medical research and global health.

Former Burnet Institute Director, Professor John Mills received an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to medicine as a researcher and physician in the field of infectious diseases, particularly HIV and AIDS, to medical administration, and to the development of Australia’s biotechnology industry.

Burnet scientists Professor Suzanne Crowe and Eman Aleksic played a key role in research that’s identified 15 genes thought to contribute to drug resistance in the most transmissible strain of tuberculosis (TB).

The Institute joined as a signatory to the ‘Melbourne Declaration on Building Integration and Reducing Migration Related Health Inequity’ calling on the Federal Government to prioritise and safeguard health service provision and reduce health inequities of migrants and refugees.

With support from the Australian Government and Burnet Institute, the Papua New Guinea Western Province Provincial Health Office launched a new TB team to join the fight against tuberculosis.

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Patron, Dame Carol Kidu DBE was the keynote speaker at the Institute’s special International Womens' Day luncheon to support our vision of creating a healthier future for mothers and babies in Papua New Guinea.

Researchers made a major advance in the quest towards a vaccine against malaria. This new research, published in prestigious international journal, Immunity, reveals the discovery of a key strategy used by the body’s immune system to protect against malaria infection.

The Institute announced the Burnet TB Initiative, to be headed by Professor Steve Graham on World TB Day. Professor Crabb AC said TB is widely acknowledged as the most important health problem in our region and warranted an appropriate response.

Professor Brendan Crabb AC and Professor Suzanne Crowe AM were acknowledged for their contributions to medical research with their election as fellows of the newly established Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Burnet supported a GeneXpert machine to provide rapid and accurate TB diagnosis at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Dili, Timor-Leste.

An Institute project to address the unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality in Zimbabwe achieved a significant milestone with the refurbishment and construction of 11 new maternity waiting homes (MWH) for expectant mothers.

The next generation of leaders in health and education in Myanmar participated in specialist training in Melbourne devised and managed by Burnet.

The Burnet spin-off company, Nanjing BioPoint Diagnostics Technology Co. Ltd launched the R&D laboratory facility in Jiangsu Province.

The Victorian Government renewed funding for the PRONTO! the shopfront rapid HIV testing service, a collaboration between Burnet and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC).

Associate Professor Gilda Tachedjian and her team made a major advance in developing drugs that can be used to prevent the 2.1 million new HIV infections each year and treat the 35 million people living with HIV globally, which was published in the prestigious international journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Burnet Institute econometrician Dr Nick Scott was honoured to receive the prestigious Jim and Margaret Beever Fellowship for the second year running for his hepatitis C research into treatment as prevention for people who inject drugs.

Dr Megan Lim was awarded the prestigious 2015 Gust-McKenzie Medal for her research into young people’s health and the role of new communications technologies in public health.

Former Burnet Institute Chair, Mr Alastair Lucas was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his outstanding contribution to medical research and international health, animal welfare, philanthropy and the business community.

Burnet launched a new set of interactive activities, Tau Durua (We Care), to give young men in Papua New Guinea the confidence, knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about sexual health, alcohol and drug use and respectful relationships.

In a first for Burnet Institute, two young researchers, Dr Megan Lim and Ms Alyce Vella created an innovative online hub for young people to access informative advice and real life stories relating to technology, relationships and issues arising from social media.

After two years in the making, Burnet Institute’s flagship research program, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) was officially launched at a gala event in Kokopo, East New Britain. Staff, partners and supporters were among the packed audience which included Australian and Papua New Guinean dignitaries: Papua New Guinea Minister for Health, Education, Research, Science and Technology and Member for Gazelle, the Hon Malakai Tabar MP; Papua New Guinea Secretary for Health Mr Pascoe Kase; East New Britain Deputy Provincial Administrator, Mr Edward Lamur; Director Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Professor Peter Siba; Counsellor, Health and HIV, Australian High Commission, Ms Christine Sturrock and Patron Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Dame Carol Kidu DBE.

In a symbolic moment, samples from the first baby born in nearby Keravat taking part in Burnet’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) research program arrived on the day the Kokopo laboratory was officially opened. HMHB Team Leader, Pele Melepia delivered the samples to laboratory scientist, Ruth for analysis for STI’s and other diseases.