Major Milestones

Since its inception in 1986, the Burnet Institute has developed into one of Australia's premier medical research and public health institutes

The Gust Years (1986-1992)

1986

  • Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research formally launched by the then Federal Health Minister The Hon Neil Blewett, MP - Founding Director, Professor Ian Gust and Founding Chairman, The Honourable Geoffrey Connard.

1989

  • Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research was incorporated.

1989-1995

  • The Victorian Injecting Drug Users Cohort Study is launched– the first Australian cohort study of injecting drug users.

1990

  • The Austin Research Institute is incorporated on 1 June - Founding Director, Professor Ian McKenzie and Founding President and Chairman Mr Harry M Hearn.

1991

  • The Austin Research Institute successfully clones human genes CD48, CD99, Ly-9, ThB. These are important genes for immune regulation.

The Mills Years (1992-2002)

1992

  • Professor John Mills is appointed as Director.

  • Dr Nick Crofts forms the International Health Unit out of the existing Epidemiology and Social Research Unit (ESRU) and recruits Rob Moodie as the head.

  • Soluble FcR are shown to inhibit arthritis-like inflammation, suggesting that new drugs are possible for arthritis and lupus.

1994

  • Commencement of the Healthy Start for Child Survival Project in Indonesia

1995

  • Identification of an attenuated strain of HIV-1 that is a possible basis of a vaccine for HIV.

1996

  • First crystallisation of Fc receptor - a breakthrough with the potential for designer drugs with major anti-inflammatory action.

1997

  • First accreditation of Burnet as an NGO by AusAID

1997 – 2001

  • First project in Tibet - Burnet provided technical input to the Tibet Primary Health Care and Water Supply Project seeing a significant increase in safe childbirth, a decline in childhood illnesses and increased access to safe water sources.

1999-2000

  • The Fairfield ‘lookback’ cohort study (a follow-up of people admitted to Fairfield Hospital with hepatitis in the 1970s) produced many insights into the natural history of chronic hepatitis C in Australia.

2001

  • Name changed to Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health Ltd (Burnet Institute) to reflect the increase in public health programs undertaken by the Institute.

  • Opening of the first overseas Burnet office in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The Wesselingh Years (2002-2007)

2002

  • Professor Steve Wesselingh is appointed as Director

  • The Burnet Institute moves from Fairfield to the Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct (AMREP) in Prahran. The Institute opens its second overseas office in Bali, Indonesia.

2003

  • Burnet opens its third overseas office in Yangon, Burma.

2004

  • Opening of the Institute’s fourth overseas office in Maputo, Mozambique.

2004 - 2007

  • Burnet conducts surveys measuring mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which remain the largest mortality surveys ever conducted in a conflict setting. Significant findings (published in The Lancet) demonstrate that preventable and treatable diseases, not violence, cause the overwhelming majority of deaths.

2005

  • Burnet piloted a linked HIV sentinel surveillance system for the Victorian Government – the first of its kind in Australia paving the way for similar surveillance systems with chlamydia.

2006

  • Austin Research Institute officially merges with the Burnet Institute on 1 January.

The Hogarth Years (2007-2008)

2007

  • Professor Mark Hogarth is appointed as acting Director.

  • Burnet scientists identify a small version of a HCV viral protein that binds to a lock on the host cell surface to gain entry in to the target cell. This forms the basis of extensive, ongoing studies to develop an effective vaccine against HCV.

The Crabb Years (2008-present)

2008

  • Professor Brendan Crabb is appointed as Director and CEO.

  • Burnet’s Clinical Research Laboratory accredited as a World Health Organization regional HIV drug resistance laboratory for the Asia Pacific region.

  • Cyclone Nargis sees an expansion of the Burma program to become Burnet’s largest overseas operation.

  • A landmark study into binge drinking among AFL players leads to significant focus and review of policy.

2009

  • The importance of astrocytes in the development of HIV-related dementia is identified leading to a paradigm shift in understanding HIV-1 neuropathogenesis.

  • A low-cost test to identify drug resistance within HIV-infected patients is developed.

2010

  • Low cost point of care CD4+ T cell assay developed. This hand-held test can be used in the field by a non-medically trained community health worker.

  • Burnet ImmunoMonitoring Facility achieves NATA (R&D) accreditation to develop and perform validated immunoassays.

  • With the development of level 7 of the Alfred Centre the merger with the Austin Institute is completed with all research groups are located on site.

  • Approx 10 per cent of sexually active gay males in Melbourne are identified as HIV positive, with 20 per cent of these people unaware of their status.

  • Burnet Institute re-brands with a new-look logo and tag line - Medical Research, Practical Action, which reflects the global nature of our research and public health activities and the translational and practical nature of our work.

  • The mechanism of HIV latency in resting cells is identified, which opens the way for further development around the possibility of a ‘cure’ for HIV infection.

  • Identification of a protein export mechanism in the malaria parasite leads to new drug target opportunities

  • A commissioned report into Safe Injecting Facilities, leads to prolific community debate around a safe injecting facility for Melbourne.

2011

  • Centre for Population Health, in collaboration with researchers from other institutes, universities and organisations, was awarded prestigious NMHRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) funding to establish CREIDU - the Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use.

  • Dr James Beeson and host team of malariologists join Burnet with Dr Beeson appointed Head of the Centre for Immunology.

  • Malaria research increased its capacity significantly with a $750,000 grant from the Ian Potter Foundation to fit out new malaria research facilities.

  • A capacity crowd filled BMW Edge in Melbourne to hear Nobel Laureate Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi present the 2011 Burnet Oration. In 2008, together with Luc Montagnier who was the director of her laboratory at the Institut Pasteur in the early 80s, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 1983.

  • VISITECT® CD4 affordable point-of-care (POC) test
    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.

2012

  • Sir Zelman Cowen Fellowship Fund launched
    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.

  • Professor Brendan Crabb elected President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).

2013

  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies research program launched
    A $5 million, five-year project aimed at providing life-saving health care for women and children through translational and community research in PNG.

  • Centre for Biomedical Research created
    The Centres for Virology and Immunology were merged to create a highly competitive, innovative and cutting edge environment for more than 120 researchers and students.

  • Centre for International Health receives first-ever NHMRC grant
    The $900,000 grant will address HIV novel point-of-care (POC) tests and early infant diagnosis in Papua New Guinea and China.

  • Burnet researchers move a step closer to finding a cure for HIV by luring the ‘sleeping’ virus out of infected cells.

  • PRONTO! - Australia’s first shop front rapid-HIV testing clinic - opens in Melbourne. A Burnet collaboration wth the Victorian AIDS Council and Victorian Department of Health.

2014

  • Burnet announces the TAP (treatment as prevention) Study, a multi-million dollar collaborative study into the effectiveness of new hepatitis C medications in a community setting.

  • Tenth year of the Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll survey of risk behaviour among more than 10,000 young people in Melbourne.

2015

  • Burnet ImmunoMonitoring Facility merges with Innoviron to form 360biolabs offering quality-assured laboratory services to support clinical trials and develop therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics.

  • Nanjing Biopoint R&D laboratory facility officially opened in China to develop low-cost diagnostic tests.

  • Discovery of malaria-blocking immune response by Professor James Beeson and his laboratory team opens the door for a malaria vaccine.

  • Researchers from the Tachedjian Laboratory discover building blocks for new drug classes to prevent and treat HIV.

2016

  • Burnet Institute celebrates 30 years of discovery research excellence and public health impact
  • More than 400 scientists, researchers and public health professionals involved in discovery-based medical research and public health programs.

Contact Details

Paul Rathbone

Head, Public Affairs & Development; Government Relations

Telephone

+61392822113

Email

paul.rathbone@burnet.edu.au