Burnet’s International Clinical Research Laboratory (iCRL) is focused on HIV laboratory and clinician training, sharing knowledge and expertise with local medical communities in developing countries.
Here is a short excerpt of the feature story which appeared in the Summer edition of IMPACT.
Created by Co-head of Burnet’s Centre for Virology Professor Suzanne Crowe AM, in answer to Australia’s need for HIV testing, the Clinical Research Laboratory was the first lab to bring HIV viral load and CD4 testing to Victoria.
It measured the viral load of all HIV patients at The Alfred (as well as from some other hospitals and clinics in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania) from 1996 to 2012 and is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities.
In February 2012, Burnet handed over HIV viral load testing to The Alfred hospital allowing the CRL to focus on the growing demand of strengthening laboratories in other countries in the Asia and Pacific regions.
Supervising scientist, Adele Lee-Wriede says the team approaches its work with a humanitarian view, providing its expertise to help Australia’s neighbours improve their own laboratories and take on affordable tests for monitoring HIV infection.
“So the iCRL was born – the ‘i’ standing for international. We are in a prime position to collaborate and assist these countries in our region in developing their own laboratories and strengthening their HIV monitoring,” Ms Lee-Wriede explained.
While Professor Crowe and her team have been working in neighbouring countries for more than a decade, the new iCRL structure will allow them to accept more opportunities to train technicians and assess laboratories in the developing world.
Further work planned includes training of scientists from the Philippines in a low-cost HIV viral load assay and assisting scientists from Papua New Guinea to develop further skills in quality control and drug resistance testing.
“In the scientific community we are always striving to do better by the patients and trying to develop the best possible, and most affordable, test without forgetting that the major burden of disease is in developing countries,” Ms Lee-Wriede said.
“It’s impossible to transfer sophisticated tests to countries that are lacking the basic requirements – running water, constant electricity, fridges and freezers for storing samples; even logistically getting a blood sample from the patient in a remote clinic to the laboratory is extremely difficult.
Find out more about iCRL in the 2012 Summer edition of IMPACT.