2010 in Review

Burnet Institute

30 December, 2010

The year was marked by a series of exciting events, scientific discovery and significant milestones for the Burnet Institute.

At the Melbourne City Romp, more than 12,000 Rompers in 2400 teams raised more than $110,000 to assist Burnet in its fight against ‘The Big Three’: HIV, TB and malaria.
One Man Epic extreme adventurer Tom Smitheringale attempted a solo, unsupported expedition to the North Pole, raising the profile of the Burnet Institute and its work on ‘The Big Three’.

‘Queer as F**k’ was launched and received its own Facebook profile. The social media site is being used as an interactive platform to promote sexual health and engage gay men in sexual health discussions. Scientists at the Burnet Institute developed a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for the measurement of CD4 T-cells, a marker of the immune system for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Burnet Institute joined Axxin Ltd in a partnership to develop an instrument reader designed for use with the CD4 test in laboratories and physician clinics.

The Burnet ImmunoMonitoring Facility (IMF), the first such facility to receive R&D accreditation in Victoria from the National Association of Testing Authorities of Australia, was launched in June. The facility will allow leading biotech scientists access to an accredited facility locally to support their clinical trials of novel vaccines and immunotherapies.
The Sir Zelman Cowen Foundation for Medical Research and Public Health was officially launched by the Governor of Victoria, and Patron-in-Chief of the Burnet Institute, Professor David De Kretser. The new Foundation, supporting the Burnet Institute, aims to improve the level of funding available to early-career scientists to enable them to continue their ground-breaking research in Australia.
Burnet scientists identified a critical step in the way malaria parasites infect red cells in humans, flagging a new direction for prevention and treatment strategies.
Research by the Burnet Institute identified many positive findings associated with safe injecting facilities and the improved health of injecting drug users. The commissioned report was undertaken in response to the increase of heroin availability in Australia.

Co-head of Burnet’s Centre for Virology, Professor Sharon Lewin, delivered the plenary lecture at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. The Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.

Research from the Burnet Institute published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health has found that adolescent underage drinkers are twice as likely to indulge in risky drinking and display alcohol-related problem behaviour when they obtain alcohol from sources other than their parents.
Burnet Youth Ambassador, Harry O’Brien addressed youth delegates on the opening day of the UNDPI Conference in Melbourne, speaking about his personal experiences of visiting Mozambique with the Burnet and his vision for the future. Harry is passionate about raising awareness among youth about the plights of others, particularly in Africa. He spoke in detail about global affliction and the suffering he witnessed when visiting Africa in 2008.
Burnet hosted a visit from the Mr Michel Sibidé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations on 30 August. Mr Sibidé was in Melbourne for the United Nations Department of Public Information International Conference (UNDPI), in which our own Dr Natalie Gray was a guest presenter.

Scientists at the Burnet Institute, Monash University and The Alfred achieved a major breakthrough by identifying the mechanism of how HIV enters resting cells – the main cell that persists in patients on anti-HIV treatment.
Burnet’s Head of the Centre for International Health, Professor Mike Toole welcomed the publication of a ‘good news story’ printed in The Age that Papua New Guinea’s HIV infection rates may be declining. Mike Toole’s opinion piece featured in The Age.

Burnet Institute and its collaborating partners were awarded $2.5 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council to establish a Centre for Research Excellence aimed at reducing the health, social and economic problems of injecting drug use in Australia. The Centre will generate new evidence on ways to reduce the disproportionately high level of health problems and social harm in the community as a result of injecting drug use and develop tools for translating research into policy and practice.

Projects by our Centre for Population Health generated significant media to help raise the profile of World AIDS Day. The Burnet Institute is reviewing a new model for rapid HIV testing for ACON in NSW. The model would allow at-risk people to be tested in non-clinical sites in the community and receive their results in under an hour, rather than the lengthy current process over several days. The Centre has also compiled data on HIV and multi-cultural societies which dispels the myth that people migrating from HIV/AIDS high prevalence countries are a risk for onward transmission in Australia.
Two major events were held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet’s Nobel Prize for Medicine. World-renowned immunologist and director of the immunogenomics laboratory at the Australian National University, Professor Chris Goodnow, presented a special Commemorative Oration. French immunologist, Professor Bernard Malissen headlined the Commemorative Symposium, hosted by the Burnet Institute and Monash University.
The Medical Journal of Australia published a paper by our Centre of Population Health department. The paper showed that compared with older men who have sex with men (MSM), those aged under 35 years are more likely to have never previously been tested for HIV, to report not knowing the HIV status of regular partner, and to report inconsistent condom use with casual and regular partners.

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