New Aussie research center aims to speed up antiviral drugs R&D
Published: Aug 31, 2022 08:53 PM
A new research institution being launched in Australia will aim to develop drugs to treat diseases caused by pathogens with the potential to cause global pandemics more quickly.

The Cumming Global Center for Pandemic Therapeutics, based in Melbourne, is the latest in a series of similar initiatives, including from the National Institutes for Health in the US and the Pandemic Antiviral Discovery, a group led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.

Vaccines to protect against COVID-19 were developed in record time, but antiviral drugs took longer, with the first approved for use just under two years after COVID-19 was first found at the end of 2019.

The team behind the new center in Australia want to speed up that process. 

The Cumming Center is backed by a A$250 million ($173.63 million) donation from Geoff Cumming, a Canadian businessman now living in Australia, for use over two decades. The Center aims to ultimately raise A$1.5 billion, including funding from governments.

Rather than targeting particular diseases, the Center will focus on platforms, aiming to find new ways of treating and ultimately stopping viruses from HIV to influenza, as well as coronaviruses and others that could cause global outbreaks.

"Our goal is to develop and invest in new ­technologies that will allow much more rapid development of antiviral therapeutics - a 

bit like how we could make a vaccine so quickly, with mRNA, because all we needed was 

a target sequence," said Sharon Lewin, an HIV researcher and professor of medicine at the ­University of Melbourne, who will lead the Center.

"We need those technologies because with the existing technologies, there isn't a way to speed up what we currently do. And we've seen antivirals actually play a really important role in pandemics. You can save a lot of lives with antiviral drugs," she said in an interview.