A new Australian Institute for Infectious Disease (AIID) has been established to bring together some of the nation’s greatest scientific and medical research minds to provide a rapid, coordinated response to current and future pandemics. To support the AIID, a new medical research centre will be built in Melbourne to provide state-of-the-art research platforms and technology which will enable rapid responses to public health crises – a necessity in a post-COVID world.

Three Foundation Partners – the University of Melbourne, Burnet Institute and Doherty Institute – will collaborate to enhance Australia’s capability in infectious disease research, education and public health, protecting Australian, regional and global communities.

The Foundation Partners all have expertise in infectious disease research and public health, and will be responsible for initiating the Victorian Infectious Disease Alliance and delivering the AIID facility. The Foundation Partners will co- locate in the facility and participate as part of the Alliance.

The Victorian Government is acting as the Major Supporting Partner and has committed $400 million to build a cutting edge, high-tech headquarters within the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct. The Foundation Partners are contributing a further $150 million towards the facility and the University of Melbourne is providing the land for the development, valued at up to $100 million.

Assistant Vice Chancellor and AIID Project Steering Committee Co-Chair, Professor James McCluskey, said that AIID represents a once in a generation opportunity to integrate the critical mass of expertise in Melbourne around new shared facilities at the forefront of pandemic preparedness, prevention and response.

“So much was learnt in the COVID-19 pandemic and the three AIID Foundation Partners were at the forefront of cutting-edge science, government advisory and leadership through those difficult times,” Prof McCluskey said.

“The AIID seeks to build on those lessons and protect Australia and the region from the inevitability of the next pandemic.”

Focus areas and impacts

  • The AIID will have the following key areas of focus for infectious diseases:
  • Diagnostics: acceleration of test development and commercially viable diagnostics
  • Therapeutics: enabling rapid design, testing and delivery of therapeutics for new pathogens to save lives at-scale within months. The Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics (CGCPT) will lead this work
  • Genomics: assisting regional capacity with robust systems for rapid prevention, detection and response to infectious diseases
  • Vaccine research: driving development of next- generation vaccines including mRNA
  • Clinical trials: providing a safe environment for the rapid evaluation of new drugs and vaccines
  • Data to inform public health decision making: to translate research into sustainable health solutions for diverse locations and communities

The AIID will have a meaningful impact on the response to infectious diseases and pandemics including:

  • Speed: Australia’s ability to respond rapidly to emerging diseases will limit the impacts on lives and livelihoods
  • Equity: the AIID will be an asset for Australians, the region and the world. Its programs will feature and support diverse, marginalised and at-risk communities to ensure no one is left behind in the fight against infectious diseases
  • Sovereign capability: the AIID’s sovereign research and development capacity protect Australia and the region from the impacts of a global pandemic
  • Ground-breaking innovation: equipping the brightest minds with the best technology and resources available will provide fertile grounds for break-through discoveries and advancements

The AIID will strengthen Australia’s capability to respond to incidents and protect the community.

Victoria’s medical, scientific and research community played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic in scientific discovery, vaccine development, therapeutics, diagnostics and modelling that had global impact.

The AIID will further establish Victoria as a global leader in infectious diseases and public health, and will support the translation of ground-breaking research into life-saving outcomes. In addition to delivering significant research and public health outcomes, the AIID will also support hundreds of jobs, increasing productivity of the biomedical sector and driving commercialisation opportunities.

The AIID Facility

To support the AIID’s work, a purpose-built, cutting-edge facility will be constructed in Melbourne’s Biomedical Precinct. The AIID facility will occupy the area of 766-780 Elizabeth Street and 213-223 Berkely Street and physically connect to the Doherty Institute across multiple storeys.

Demolition of existing buildings will commence in 2024, with construction commencing in 2025, due to be completed by the end of 2027.

The building will be a centre of excellence housing up to 1,000 researchers and staff members from the Foundation Partners, Victorian Infectious Disease Alliance partners, biotech industry and commercial partners.

Co-location will strengthen collaboration and engagement with their peers nationally and internationally and create a platform for new partnerships to be forged with the private sector and industry stakeholders.

“The AIID facility will significantly enhance Victoria’s impressive offering of high-end health infrastructure, creating greater sovereign capacity to develop home-grown responses to new and emerging infectious diseases – a key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Prof McCluskey said.

With government funding secured, a strong business case finalised and land acquired, development of the AIID facility project is well underway.

“Designed by Wardle architects and engineered by Aurecon, the facility offers unique opportunities for the construction industry to deliver a project that will be critical to the health and safety of the community.”

Concept design for the building was completed in early 2023, and schematic design completed in early 2024 with input and collaboration from Foundation Partner researchers and staff, who will ultimately be the future users of the building’s cutting-edge facilities.

“Located on the prominent Haymarket intersection, it will be an iconic and proud addition to the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct requiring a complex mix of skills, resources, fittings, fixtures, equipment and expertise to deliver.

“Over 365 construction jobs are estimated to be created on average during each year of the design and construction of AIID, providing construction and professional services such as engineering, design and architecture.”

Kane Constructions has been engaged for the early and enabling works which commenced in early 2024. Tendering for main works will follow in the coming months.

“Encouraging sustainability and diversity in the construction industry will be a focus throughout the project’s delivery and we have embedded targets into our tenders and contracts such as diverting waste from landfill and directing work towards under-represented groups.”

The facility will feature:

  • One of the largest high containment facilities in the southern hemisphere enabling identification, isolation and characterisation of new viruses and other infectious diseases
  • New drug screening, imaging and testing in high containment needed for early-stage human drug and vaccine research
  • Human infection challenge unit designed to accelerate

the development of new medicines and vaccines for key partners and industry clients, through high-quality and ethical clinical research. Robotic biobanking to efficiently and safely store biomedical samples from large clinical trials

  • Public health genomics, incorporating future technologies and artificial intelligence to allow for rapid outbreak response and understanding of transmission of infectious diseases in communities
  • Cross-disciplinary disease transmission modelling, allowing for prediction of new outbreaks and the impact of interventions
  • Dedicated space for industry partners designed to create an innovation-focused entrepreneurial environment that supports the translation of promising discoveries into the successful commercialisation of medical products and services to deliver patient benefit

Infectious diseases will continue to be a threat for Australia and the world. Learning from COVID-19, AIID is set to strengthen Australia’s capability to respond to incidents and protect the community. The AIID facility will drive this by unifying efforts and harnessing the immense potential of Victoria’s biomedical sector, providing access to the right research infrastructure and knowledge networks, and increasing engagement with industry.

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