Infectious diseases and diagnostic testing
Victoria is a leading location for development of new ideas and the development of diagnostic testing for the control of infectious diseases. Built on world-class research and key R&D infrastructure, the state is currently home to over 180 companies in the biotechnology sector, employing about 20,000 people and recording over US$9.5 billion in revenue in 2013-14.
Australia excels at infectious diseases and immunology research and development with Melbourne recognised as a global hub of immunology excellence. Melbourne scientists receive over 50% of Australia's health and medical research funding for microbiology and immunology research.
Victoria has over 4,700 researchers working across academic organisations and Victorian SMEs focused on infectious and inflammatory diseases and immunology.
Victorian organisations have experienced clinical trial experience targeting infectious diseases as well as broad capabilities in point-of-care (POC) diagnostic development pipeline, including experience with regulatory authorities including the FDA and EMA.
The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) is a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) facility that helps protect Australia's multi-billion dollar livestock and aquaculture industries, and the general public, from emerging infectious disease threats. AAHL is one of only six high-containment animal research centres globally and performs scientific research into the world's most dangerous infectious agents. As part of a global One Health network AAHL works with international human and animal health organisations. AAHL's, world recognised PC4 Zoonosis Suite is the most sophisticated high containment laboratory in the world enabling collaborative research into the most lethal diseases.
Vibrant biotechnology sector
Victoria's biotechnology sector is one of the most innovative in the world, known for its consistent and collaborative capability to deliver transformative treatments. Recognised globally, Australia was ranked fourth in the work for biotechnology innovation in the 2014 and 2015 Scientific American Worldview ranking.
Some recent biotechnology success stories focusing on infectious diseases and immunology include:
- Scientists at AAHL first identified and characterised the deadly Hendra virus, which is classified as a 'biosafety level four pathogen'- the most dangerous of viruses without a known cure or vaccine. The AAHL team has since been integral in the development of the Hendra virus vaccine for horses, now being administered to protect horses, and as a result people, in Australia.
- CSIRO has developed a Hendra vaccine for horses. Its Equivac® HeV is a world-first commercial vaccine for a Bio-Safety Level-4 disease agent and enables equine activities to continue with minimal negative impact by increasing personal safety for people regularly interacting with horses. The vaccine has reduced costs attributed to future disease response and containment and minimised the chances of the Hendra virus mutating and spreading more readily between horses, or from human to human.
- The Burnet Institute's innovative POC VISITECT®CD4 test, enables CD4+ T-cell levels to be determined quickly and conveniently using a finger-prick blood sample. It is aimed at reaching HIV-positive patients around the world. The Burnet also continues to collaborate with Axxin Ltd in Melbourne, on the development of an inexpensive and robust instrument/reader for the CD4 test.
- Seqirus, a subsidiary of CSL, manufactures, markets and distributes a range of life-saving products including seasonal influenza vaccine, the pandemic influenza vaccine (Panvax), and a vaccine against Q Fever (Q-VAX).
- Global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently opened a pilot vaccine facility in Melbourne. GSK's Melbourne team worked with Monash University and vaccine experts in Belgium to apply innovative blow-fill-seal technology to manufacture vaccines. The new process is expected to reduce the cost of manufacturing and make life-saving vaccines more affordable in developing countries.
- Following over a decade of research in Australia, CSL licensed and developed Gardasil®, a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), responsible for many cervical cancers. CSL later partnered with Merck & Co. Inc., who funded the large 13 country Phase 3 clinical trial involving over 12,000 women. Gardasil® was approved by the FDA in 2006 and continues to dominate the global HPV vaccine market, reaping blockbuster sales greater than US$1 billion per year.