Burnet Institute: Creating an even playing field to beat disease

Hepatitis C could become a disease of the past as the Burnet Institute’s smart diagnostics and innovative vaccines reach out beyond Melbourne to poor and vulnerable communities across Australia and throughout the world.

The Burnet Institute’s collaborative and practical approach to commercialisation means better health for poor and vulnerable communities is a very real possibility in our lifetime.

Solutions through partnership

Access to effective diagnostics early on can be the difference between life and death, particularly in isolated and low socioeconomic communities. The Burnet Institute works to eradicate those barriers, as well as disease, by looking at the diagnostics and bringing together the partners necessary to develop the right technology to get knowledge in the field.

“We take it as far as we can with partners to get prototypes manufactured or get it to the point of clinical trials,” said Associate Professor David Anderson, Deputy Director of the Burnet Institute and the person responsible for heading up commercialisation of Burnet Institute’s technologies and diagnostic testing labs.

Simple diagnostics to detect HIV Viral Load

Medical experts in Melbourne at the World Congress of Immunology held on 21-26 August, were buzzing about the new device the Burnet Institute has developed to ascertain the viral load and drug compliance in HIV patients. “We’ve developed a simple, disposable device, in collaboration with our long-term commercial partners, that is ideal for patients who don’t have access to well-resourced clinics,” said Dr Anderson.

“The device allows you to put in a few drops of blood, separate the blood plasma which is then dried down and this can then be shipped to a central lab and give you the correct results.”

Hepatitis C Vaccine

Burnet Institute’s Melbourne-based labs are also fighting disease on other fronts, with the development of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C currently in animal phase testing. The vaccine, developed by Associate Professor Heidi Drummer, the deputy head of the Centre for Biomedical Research at the Burnet Institute, is set to be taken through to human trials within 3 years and could change thousands of lives both in Australia as well as developing countries.

Investment opportunities

“There are a significant number of people at risk of attracting Hepatitis C,” said Dr Drummer, “Anyone with HIV, anyone entering prison, social workers, drug users, health care workers and people already with Hepatitis B.”

“If you start adding all that up,” said Dr Drummer, “It’s quite a large market for people at risk in the developed world. In the developing world, obviously, the risk is much higher.”

Whether it’s smart diagnostics or a vaccine to prevent Hep C, it’s clear that it is Melbourne-led innovations such as these that are set to attract canny investors and ultimately, eradicate disease around the world.