Melbourne becomes pandemic research capital with $250m donation to research center

A new center dedicated to creating a “second shield” to protect people from future pandemics will be built in Melbourne with the backing of a $250 million donation.

Canadian philanthropists Geoff and Anna Cumming are donating to the University of Melbourne to establish the Cumming Global Center for Pandemic Therapeutics.

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Announced today, the gift is the largest philanthropic donation to medical research and one of the largest in Australian history.

The construction of the center was also supported by the state government, with an additional investment of $75 million over 10 years.

Director of the Doherty Institute Professor Sharon Lewin said The Cumming Global Center will enable the rapid design and testing of new treatments, and their delivery to the community within months of a pandemic outbreak.

“An effective pandemic response requires both vaccines and treatments, but innovation in pathogen therapies has lagged behind vaccines, with $137 billion publicly invested globally in vaccines, versus just $7 billion in therapeutics in the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“The Cumming Global Center for Pandemic Therapeutics will focus on research into high-potential emerging molecular platforms and computational techniques to develop new therapies at unprecedented speed.

“It will provide long-term support for junior and senior researchers to tackle big and bold ideas.”

Geoff Cumming listed the reasons for choosing Melbourne to host the centre.

“This new global center for medical research is designed as a long-term initiative to better protect global society against future pandemics. It will attract the best researchers and scientists from Australia and around the world, under long-term contracts, as part of a collaborative medical research effort designed to improve global resilience,” he said.

“The scale and enduring nature of investment in medical research by successive Victorian governments, the breadth of the talent pool in Melbourne’s medical research district ecosystem, the collegiality of all involved, and the Australia’s success during the COVID-19 pandemic were key reasons for the Centre’s location in Melbourne.

“Our goal is to be one of the best pandemic therapeutic research centers in the world. We aim to create solutions to minimize the impact of future pandemics and thereby create greater societal resilience internationally in the decades to come.

Melbourne is poised to become the nation’s pandemic research capital; already with US biotech Moderna opening an mRNA vaccine factory at Monash University, while Australia’s largest healthcare company CSL is developing an $800 million cell-based vaccine manufacturing center in Tullamarine.

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