Excelling in year of challenges and pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to challenge everyone in 2021, but Burnet Institute’s contribution to the pandemic response ‘has been nothing short of outstanding’, as acknowledged in the Institute’s 2021 Annual Report presented to today’s virtual Annual General Meeting.

In his Director’s message, Professor Brendan Crabb AC commended Burnet staff, and its supporters and donors for their commitment and contributions. He acknowledged that Burnet continued to excel across all its research programs throughout a disruptive year, and paid tribute to our teams in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar who have experienced their own unique challenges to progress their research.

“Burnet’s contribution to the local and national pandemic response both from a laboratory research and public health perspective has been nothing short of outstanding, and I’m grateful to the many people at the Institute who have gone way beyond what was expected to provide their expertise and support.”

It was also a record year for Burnet’s researchers, publishing 334 scientific papers, with more than 50 of them focused on COVID-19.

“Given we didn’t have any specific COVID scientists, of course, prior to the pandemic two years ago, it’s just an amazing achievement,” Professor Crabb said.

In her Chair’s message, Ms Mary Padbury lauded the Institute’s science-based response through laboratory-focused research in vaccines and rapid diagnostics, modelling, and work to understand community behaviours in responding to lockdowns and public health measures.

“Our people have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions, including in difficult circumstances in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Myanmar.”

Some of Burnet’s achievements and impact highlighted in the 2021 Annual Report include:

  • A record-breaking 334 peer-reviewed publications, with 249 Burnet authors appearing on these publications
  • Competitive grants including AUD$12 million in MRFF and NHMRC grants and fellowships
  • AUD$86 million spent on improving health for a more equitable world
  • Programs to improve health and change lives in more than 20 countries
  • Innovative vaccine research including the identification of new ways to target the malaria parasite
  • COVID-19 modelling that was fundamental in helping to shape the outcome of Delta waves in New South Wales and Victoria, and a safe way out of Victoria’s Lockdown 6
  • Strengthened partnerships, including the Australian Institute for Infectious Disease for which Burnet is one of three foundation partners
  • An improved financial base, particularly from the sale of Burnet’s shareholding in 360biolabs.

Graphic showing the achievements of Know-C19 program, Burnet's COVID-19 research initiative

Burnet headed into 2022 with a strong financial position which will help support and grow current programs as well as address new opportunities to respond to pressing global health problems through the new strategic plan, Burnet 2030.

Looking ahead, Professor Crabb noted with concern the unprecedented levels of climate-related disasters which need new strategies and solutions for a challenging future.

“Many environmental and climate-related health issues are now becoming apparent, such as changing infectious disease patterns, mosquito-borne disease, food security threats, and mental health issues,” Professor Crabb said.

“These changes … will require organisations such as Burnet and the newly formed Australian Institute for Infectious Disease to work through new strategies that provide solutions to existing but compounding issues.”

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