Image: Burnet Institute Chair, Mr Robert Milne addresses the AGM
“A terrific year for the Institute” is how Burnet Chair Mr Robert Milne described the performance of Burnet in 2017.
Addressing the Institute’s 29th Annual General Meeting at the AMREP Theatre, Mr Milne said 2017 had been a year of tremendous change and innovation for the Institute as it began the implementation of the bold strategic plan, Burnet 2020.
“The new structure has really brought about a new way of doing business. It has created the opportunity for all of you to come together in various working groups to address the key challenges associated with maternal and child health, disease elimination, behaviour and health risks, health security and healthy ageing,” he said.
“It has encouraged a greater sharing of ideas and information, the development of new strategies on how best to approach some of the great health challenges that we face as a global community, and to be creative in our program designs to achieving equity through better health.
“Our focus of course, remains on achieving better health for vulnerable communities in Australia and our region, especially in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar.”
In presenting the 2017 Annual Report, Mr Milne reported the Institute had attracted AUD$13.6 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants and fellowships, spent more than AUD$45 million on improving health of vulnerable communities, and authored an impressive 247 peer-reviewed publications.
“Our capacity to undertake many of these innovative programs is due to the support of our funding bodies and to those who support us through philanthropic donations or in-kind support. I want to thank the many donors and supporters of the Institute for their incredible generosity during the year,” Mr Milne said.
He acknowledged the support of the NHMRC, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and also the Victorian Government Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources for its funding through the Operational Infrastructure Support Scheme.
“We were delighted the government responded to the calls by VicAAMRI and Victoria’s medical research institutes to help address the increasing costs of medical research by providing an additional AUD$8 million to the scheme in the 2017/2018 budget,” he said.
“Naturally, we were hopeful that promised future funding increases would be announced in this (Victorian) budget, but we will be talking further with the state government to ensure increased support will occur sooner rather than later.
“We must ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the medical research sector in Victoria, which currently enjoys more than 40 per cent of the NHMRC funding pool and employs more than 5000 people."
Burnet’s spin-off companies, Nanjing BioPoint and 360biolabs, performed exceptionally well in the past year, delivering positive returns to the Institute, along with the benefits of leasing returns from the property at 99 Commercial Road.
“These together with our philanthropic support have positioned the Institute in a relatively strong financial position.”
Among the successes of 2017, three highlights were singled out:
The VISITECT CD4 point-of-care test released commercially by our partner Omega Diagnostics after more than 10 years of development led by Associate Professor David Anderson, Professor Suzanne Crowe AM and Ms Mary Garcia.
Our team of clinicians and public health staff in Papua New Guinea, led by Dr Suman Majumdar, in their endeavours to manage the outbreak of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) in Daru.
The Victorian State Government’s decision to trial a supervised drug-injecting facility in inner Melbourne, where dozens of lives have been lost to heroin overdoses in recent years.
Retiring Board members, Mr Garry Hounsell and Professor Mike Toole AM were also acknowledged for their outstanding contributions to the Institute over many years.
Named in honour of the founding directors of the Burnet and Austin Research Institutes, Professor Ian Gust AO and Emeritus Professor Ian McKenzie AM, the award is presented annually to an outstanding mid-career Burnet staff member in recognition of excellence in research and/or public health.
Image: Beever Fellowship winner Dr Jo-Anne Chan with Nathan, Lauren and Jayden Beever
Also at today’s AGM the Jim and Margaret Beever Fellowship was presented to Dr Jo-Anne Chan, postdoctoral research scientist. Dr Chan works under the supervision of Dr Michelle Boyle and Professor Beeson, with a particular focus on naturally acquired immunity to Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte antigens.
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