COVID-19 Medical Research around Australia

COVID-19 Medical Research around Australia

Last update 29 June 2020

Around Australia our hard-working medical research institutes have their best and brightest minds working on innovative ways to find the solutions we need to COVID-19. We have released an animation showing the speed and breadth of of COVID-19 research happening across Australia:

The below list is not complete, and we will continue to update. We have divided the various research up into the following areas:

Drug Development and Treatments


ASCOT Trial – multiple partners, led by the Doherty Institute (VIC)

Large-scale, multi-site trial to test Lopinavir/ritonavir and hydroxychloroquine

Led by Associate Professor Steven Tong, a Royal Melbourne Hospital infectious diseases clinician and co-lead of clinical research at the

Doherty Institute, the AustralaSian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT) plans to recruit patients in over 70 hospitals across the country, in every state and territory, alongside 11 hospitals in New Zealand. The study will start by trialling two treatments that have been shown to kill COVID-19 in laboratory tests. They are Lopinavir/ritonavir and hydroxychloroquine. Other Institute’s from AAMRI include The Hunter Medical Research Institute (NSW), Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (VIC), Menzies School of Health Research (NT), and Wesley Medical Research (QLD).

Image credit: Dr Jason Roberts from Doherty Institute, he used an electron microscopy to capture COVID-19.


Garvan Institute (NSW) and Kirby Institute (NSW)

Engineering antibodies for protection and therapy

A research team led by the Garvan Institute, in collaboration with UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute, is developing antibodies designed to target surface proteins of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), which the virus needs to infect human cells. The potential antiviral therapy could be particularly suited to at-risk individuals, including the elderly and chronically ill patients, and could be administered as a preventative therapy to health workers on the frontline. Read more on the Garvan’s website.


Burnet Institute (VIC)

Testing antiviral drugs

Novel drugs with antiviral action, such as ACE2 inhibitors, are being screened by the Burnet for their ability to prevent or to treat COVID-19 infection. They are examining if, how and why these drugs are effective against COVID-19 and then turning the best performing drug candidates into formulations that can be inhaled to deliver the drug directly to where the virus is in the lungs.

Exploring potential immunotherapies through monoclonal antibodies

The Institute is developing monoclonal antibodies that are essential for profiling the immune response in humans and animals after infection with COVID-19. These have the potential to be applied to aid in the development of novel point-of-care diagnostics and are also potential immunotherapies.


Hudson Institute of Medical Research (VIC)

Hudson Institute of Medical Research has several research projects underway to develop treatments for COVID-19 and better understand the disease.

Many critical COVID-19 patients develop dangerous levels of inflammation, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure. This state is thought to be driven by pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines that can create a “cytokine storm”. Hudson Institute researchers are investigating treatments to help prevent chronic and hyper-acute inflammation.

Testing potential cancer drug Veyonda

In collaboration with Biotech company Noxopharm, Hudson Institute researchers (led by Dr Michael Gantier) found in laboratory tests that an active ingredient, idronoxil, in a cancer drug (Veyonda) could block pathways that sense the virus-induced damage and activate cytokines. Noxopharm is seeking approval from the US FDA for a clinical trial in COVID-19 patients of Veyonda. More information on the Hudson Institute website.

Repurposing of existing drugs

Hudson Institute researchers Associate Professor Ashley Mansell and Dr Michelle Tate are collectively also using their knowledge of severe inflammation from influenza A and other pandemic viruses to repurpose existing drugs and develop new drugs to treat COVID-19. The COVID-19 disease has similar characteristics to severe Influenza A virus (IAV) infections, including specific triggers of the damaging lung inflammation that causes acute respiratory distress syndrome—ARDS. This project will:

  • Identifying the molecular mechanisms of SARS CoV-2 induced inflammation
  • Examine how COVID-19 results in severe lung inflammation
  • Develop and test new, and repurposed, anti-inflammatory compounds that block specific proinflammatory proteins or their action to treat ARDS in COVID-19.

Cell therapies for COVID-19 acute respiratory distress

Hudson Institute is planning to launch a world-first clinical trial to test cell therapies
against severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Associate Professor Rebecca Lim and Professor Euan
Wallace are working closely with intensivists at Monash Health’s Intensive Care Unit to test
if anti-inflammatory allogeneic amniotic epithelial cells are an effective therapy for severe
COVID-19 morbidity. The planned Phase 1b/2a clinical trial will determine if amniotic
epithelial cells reduce the cytokine storm and coagulopathy associated with COVID-19
infection and encourage alveolar epithelial repair. Funding is being sought for this trial. Read more on the Hudson’s website.


Institute for Glycomics (QLD)

Drug discovery through targeting proteins

A structure-guided drug discovery program has been established to target proteins that are essential in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. Infection blockade by identified drugs from drug screening activities against specific protein targets will be further investigated by an established structural biology program. This program will use both established advanced NMR spectroscopic techniques, including STD-NMR spectroscopy, and protein X-ray crystallography to determine atomic-level detail of the interactions between the drugs and target proteins. This information provides new direction in the optimisation of existing drug templates for the development of more potent and specific novel drugs against COVID-19.  

Image credit: From the Institute of Glycomics, their PC3 facility safety gear.


WEHI (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) (VIC)

Developing ‘biologics’ medicine

WEHI is developing ‘biologics’ medicines for coronavirus infections. These mimic antibodies to fight infection and are already in clinical use for diseases such as cancer and autoimmune conditions. This Institute is harnessing its infectious disease research capabilities and collaborating with other organisations to identify antibodies that can block coronavirus infection. More on the Institute’s website.


Translational Research Institute Australia (QLD)

Global Consortium for Chermosensory Research

This is a world-wide scientific study to assess the possible relationships between respiratory illness (e.g., COVID-19, influenza or the common cold) and their effects on smell and taste: The GCCR is a group of 600 scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates across 50 countries founded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It involves University of Queensland researchers based at TRI.

COVID-19 susceptibility, QUT

QUT’s Dr Pascal Duijf performed “in silico flow cytometry” on 1,927 human lung tissues to deconvolute the levels of seven leukocyte types involved in triggering an acute anti-viral cellular immune response. He suspects: “that a subgroup of individuals may be exceedingly susceptible to COVID-19 due to concomitant high pre-existing ACE2 expression and low baseline cytotoxic lymphocyte levels in the lung.” Read more on biorxiv.


The George Institute (NSW)

CLARITY trial to test role of common treatment in easing COVID-related lung failure

The George Institute is running a trial to test whether common blood pressure medications reduce the duration and severity of lung failure due to COVID-19. The group of blood pressure medications – angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs – have been in clinical use for over 30 years, are well-understood, and widely available at low cost. They protect against lung injury in animal studies, including injury from viruses like the COVID-19 virus, although the effect in humans is not known. Read more on The George Institute’s website.


The John Curtin School of Medical Research (ACT)

Evaluating a treatment for COVID-19-related sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome

The Cancer and Vascular Biology Group at The John Curtin School of Medical Research, has developed a drug that neutralises the cell-damaging and pro-coagulant effects of extracellular histones that are released by neutrophils in sepsis and related syndromes, such as ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). Since the major cause of death and serious morbidity in COVID-19 patients is ARDS that is associated with a coagulopathy and multi-organ damage, it is highly likely that this drug will be effective in patients who require intensive care for COVID-19. The drug is at an advanced stage of development, having already demonstrated strong pre-clinical activity against sepsis and sepsis-related syndromes and having successfully completed a Phase-I clinical trial in healthy volunteers.


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (VIC)

CATCH-19 – reduce morbidity in infected children

Dr Amanda Gwee is leading a world-first paediatric clinical trial to determine the efficacy of oral hydroxchloroquine care for children with moderate to severe COVID-19. Preliminary evidence suggests that HCQ – already used to manage arthritis, lupus and malaria in children, may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. Outcomes may change clinical care for children infected with COVID-19 and severe acute respiratory distress.


The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (NSW)

Stem cell clinical trial to reduce severity of symptoms

In collaboration with colleagues at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and two Hospitals in Victoria, the Institute aims to conduct a clinical trial of a certain type of stem cell to dampen down the hyper-activity of the immune system that causes severe heart and lung problems in patients with COVID-19. Pending approval, patients with the virus will be injected with a particular stem cell, previously used in patients, to successfully dampen down the immune response that causes problems in other diseases. Specialists are optimistic the cells will do the same for patients with COVID-19-, which is characterised by a significant activation of the immune system.

Stem cell-derived tissues for antiviral screening

Professor Melissa Little is leading a collaboration to rapidly deliver human kidney, lung, heart and gut tissue derived from human induced pluripotent stem cell lines for screening to support research facilities across Australia that have established live COVID-19 cultures for the purpose of assaying viral titre and infectivity to facilitate rapid repurposing of existing drugs and accelerate the evaluation of new drugs prior to clinical trial.


QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QLD)

Randomised controlled trial of tocilizuma

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer are conducting a randomised controlled trial of tocilizumab, a drug used to reduce the adverse effects of inflammation, in critically ill patients with COVID-19. They will enrol 190 patients from intensive care units in Brisbane, and will determine if tocilizumab can rescue patients.

Testing existing, known, safe drugs

Researchers are testing existing, widely used, and safe drugs to (i) reduce COVID-19’s ability to infect cells and (ii) help the immune system fight the disease. In parallel, we will adapt our existing patented liquid biopsy assay system that has been successfully used in cancer patients to predict disease progression in patients with COVID-19.

Developing antiviral gene-based drugs

QIMR Berghofer are developing novel antiviral gene-based drugs by using virus-derived molecules called ‘defective interfering (DI) RNA’ and synthetically made silencing RNAs (siRNAs). This project will exploit the best DI RNA, siRNA or a combination thereof to strongly inhibit coronavirus growth, and this in turn will greatly reduce morbidity due to COVID-19.


Robinson Research Institute (SA)

Testing a new Australian ventilator

The Cystic Fibrosis Airway Research Group is working with 4Dx to rapidly develop and test a ventilator for use in the COVID-19 pandemic. The control software of this ventilator unit is simple but highly configurable, and it has been thoroughly tested in the field. It can also be built from readily-available food-grade parts at low cost and in high volumes, using local manufacturing and Australian supply chains that are not dependent on currently unreliable international supply and shipping systems.


Baker Institute (VIC)

Supercomputing for testing key proteins

A Baker Institute team has been successful in securing one of three national grants that will provide high performance computing capacity to target key proteins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, and to explore novel pathways for drug discovery and treatment. The project hopes this additional computational power can supercharge efforts in the search for drug treatments. Read more on the Baker Institute’s website.


Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (VIC) & Doherty Institute (VIC)

Research into anti-parasitic drug ivermectin

A collaborative study led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) with the Doherty Institute, has shown that an anti-parasitic drug (ivermectin) already available around the world kills the virus within 48 hours. Published in Antiviral Research, read more on the Doherty and Monash BDI websites.


Hunter Medical Research Institute (NSW)

Testing anti-virals

With their focus on respiratory science, the team at The Hunter Research Institute (HMRI) have been working with related, less pathogenic strains of coronavirus for some time. Using their established human airway cell infection model they will be able to quickly determine if their treatment approach (which can easily be tailored to COVID-19) has potential as a treatment. More on The Hunter’s website.

Re-purposing cancer drugs

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for anti-viral therapies to treat respiratory virus infections. A new literature review, published in FASEB BioAdvances, identifies a class of drugs well known in the field of cancer treatment as offering hope of an anti-viral. Researchers at HMRI have identified the link between growth factor receptors (GFRs) which promote many cancers, and viral infections. This research project will test their hypothesis.



Starving the virus to slow its spread

Researchers at SAHMRI have been studying protein-making pathway that are activated by coronavirus, meaning inhibiting this pathway could drastically slow viral growth. They already know how to inhibit this pathway from preclinical models, using a drug that is already in phase 2 clinical trials. This means the drug is already cleared for use in humans.

Trialling ultraviolet sanitiser

Dr Amy Keir from SAHRMI is part of the team at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital that is trialling ultraviolet sanitiser in the Neonatal Nurseries. The aim is to reduce viruses and bacteria on mobile phones and other objects brought into the nurseries by staff and parents.


Centenary Institute (NSW)

Identifying inhibitors of the infection of the eyes and lungs

Proteoglycans are essential facilitators of coronavirus binding to cells. Researchers at the Centerary Institute will identify what are the proteoglycan protein cores in both eye and lung tissues that mediate this binding, and what are the glycan sugar structures that enable it. We will then develop agents that have sufficient specificity to be clinically useful in both the eyes and lungs.

Vascular-targeted therapies

Centerary Institute are developing a novel treatment that has a dual mode of action action: 1) anti-viral combined with 2) anti-vascular. The aim is to prevent outgrowth of blood and lymphatics vessels during the inflammatory response induced by viral infection. This molecular strategy is to avoid the acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to COVID-19 infection in most severe cases. This study involves a collaboration with a Melbourne based biotech to develop the first in class inhibitors for a novel molecular target.

The researchers are also exploring lung immunopathology during the acute respiratory distress syndrome phase of severe COVID-19, which appears to follow a similar pattern to other severe pulmonary infections that they have expertise in. Specifically, they have shown benefit to inhibiting the growth of blood vessels, infection-induced blood vessel leakiness, and infection-associated haemostasis. The researchers will determine if these treatments are of benefit in severe COVID-19 infections.

Stopping SARS COVID-2 from entering human cells

Researchers are applying their expertise in protein evolution (the engineering of new proteins with new traits) to look at developing a novel SARS COVID-2 neutralising therapy. This consists of the production of new proteins that are able to disrupt the process of how the SARS COVID-2 virus is able to attach itself to, and then enter human cells. Disrupting this process would prevent viral replication and resulting disease progression.

COVID-19 research targets human enzymes

An enzyme called TMPRSS is widespread in the human body and is essential for SARS COVID-2 (COVID-19) and similar viruses to infect us. This enzyme modifies a molecule on the coronavirus so that the virus is then able to enter our cells at the start of infection in the human body. Researchers want to develop a drug that stops the TMPRSS enzyme from helping the virus and is both effective and safe. Researchers can do this using their expertise and a unique drug screening approach. The successful development of such a drug could be a novel therapy for past, current, and possibly future, SARS-CoV coronaviruses.


Kirby Institute (NSW)

Reconfiguring PC3 laboratories to test therapies and treatments

Kirby Institute’s PC3 laboratories at UNSW Sydney have been reconfigured to research COVID-19. The following projects are underway:

  • Molecular tools for the COVID-19 pandemic and future viral pandemics, which aims to rapidly develop molecular and cellular tools for quantifying replication of live COVID-19 for use in immunotherapeutic screens and clinical trials.
  • Exploring hyperimmune globulin-based therapy for COVID-19.
  • Engineering monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 protection and therapy, in collaboration with the Garvan Institute.
  • Development of antiviral RNA therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment delivered via nanoparticle inhalation, which aims to deliver antiviral COVID-19 treatment via an inhaler or puffer.


Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (NSW)

Cloaking the virus to make it ineffective

Researchers are developing novel COVID-19 therapies for the upper and lower respiratory tract. Investigating how to ‘Cap’ COVID-19 to ‘cloak’ this virus, making it ineffective.

Altering the way the virus hijacks cells

Researchers are finding novel ways to treat COVID-19 by altering the way in which the virus hijacks the cell.


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Vaccines and Preventions


(WEHI) The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (VIC)

COVID SHIELD – clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 in high risk health care workers

In collaboration with major hospitals across several states, WEHI is leading COVID SHIELD, Australia’s first clinical trial to assess whether the drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in preventing COVID-19. The trial is focused on frontline and allied healthcare workers. The goal is to reduce the incidence of COVID-19 in the Australian healthcare workforce so our frontline professionals can stay safe, well and continue to care for sick patients. More on the Institute’s website.


Telethon Kids Institute (WA)

The CoCo Study (Containing Coronavirus)

This trial focuses on containing the virus by administering a type of interferon to infected cases and their contacts to reduce viral shedding, particularly from those with no symptoms, or prior to the onset of symptoms. Interferon is a naturally occurring protein that is known to boost the immune system and help the body fight infection. The drug will be given via injection and is commonly used to treat people with multiple sclerosis. Researchers from WA, NSW and Queensland will work together to recruit 260 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and their direct contacts. This study is funded by a $2.66 million donation from BHP’s Vital Resources Fund. Read more on the Telethon Kids website.


Institute for Glycomics (QLD)

Building on existing vaccine work

Based within the Institute’s Laboratory of Vaccines for the Developing World, researchers are building on many years of vaccine development experience in streptococcus and malaria research to identify critical target points on the coronavirus that may be susceptible to immune attack and to use that information to develop a highly focussed vaccine.


The John Curtin School of Medical Research (ACT)

Developing a vaccine for COVID-19

The University of Queensland-led Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) COVID-19 vaccine consortium has developed a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 that is currently being tested in pre-clinical efficacy studies in animal models. The ANU is mainly involved in evaluation of the innate immune cell and T cell responses in animal models, including the T cell-based immunogenicity studies related to the human clinical vaccine trial. The vaccine trial is scheduled to commence June-July 2020.


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (VIC)

BRACE trial

Professor Nigel Curtis is leading a randomised controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in reducing incidence and severity of COVID-19 in healthcare workers. The study commenced in late March in Australia and with a $10M investment from the Gates Foundation, will now expand to include 10,000 workers across Australia and Europe. Further discussions around expansion to the US, Africa and India are underway. More on the MCRI website. Other AAMRI members involved as remote site for this trial are SAHMRI (SA) and Telethon Kids Institute (WA).

Image credit: MCRI.


Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (QLD)

A disruptive technology for mass production of precision engineered vaccines

Within the Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymer at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) research and development has focused for many years on rapid response technologies that allow fast design and manufacture of vaccines to combat pandemic threats. Using this platform technology, safe and efficient vaccine candidates have been developed against seven different infectious diseases. Five COVID-19 vaccine candidates have been designed and manufactured and are currently being evaluated in animal trials. Read more on GRIDD’s website.


Burnet Institute (VIC)

Supporting vaccine development with antibody assays

Burnet staff are developing antibody assays that have multiple uses for vaccine development including:

  • Understanding how antibodies develop and their specificity in natural COVID-19 infection
  • Pre-clinical evaluation of potential vaccines
  • Evaluation of the antibody responses in human clinical trials of vaccines


Centenary Institute (NSW)

Repurposing existing vaccine platforms to develop new COVID-19 candidates

Building on the Centerary Institute’s extensive expertise in the development of vaccine candidates against lung pathogens, they are combining COVID-19 antigens with existing licensed vaccines to develop novel products for human delivery. Lead candidates are currently be evaluated in animal trials at the Centenary Institute.

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Drug screening


QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QLD)

Set up of high-level biocontainment testing facility

QIMR Berghofer have set up a high-level biocontainment testing facility at QIMR Berghofer to allow evaluation of potential new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and clinical interventions to find potential solutions for the current SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic.

Image credit: QIMR Berghofer.


WEHI (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) (VIC)

National Drug Discovery Centre high-throughput screening facility

WEHI is using its in-house National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC) to search for new medicines against COVID-19 and future coronaviruses. The high-throughput screening facility and expertise at the NDDC is enabling researchers to accelerate the discovery and development of new treatments. The Institute is also assessing potential antiviral medicines for activity against coronavirus. More on the Institute’s website.


Centenary Institute (NSW)

COVID-19 lab establishment to test a range of potential treatments

The researchers will be testing new treatments that they have investigated in other inflammatory diseases. This will be achieved by setting up infections of primary human airway epithelial and blood cells and establishing a humanised ACE2 expressing mouse colony, and then mouse models of infections. They will be combining these with unique severe asthma, COPD and high fat diet/obesity models to assess mechanisms of increased susceptibility.  The lab will also be assessing age (young, adult, old) and sex differences.


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (VIC)

Human Challenge Model

Professor Andrew Steer is working with collaborators, establishing a framework to conduct non-Sars-CoV-2 human challenge studies. The MCRI is the only place in Australia that has conducted human challenge trials of throat infection. The model will be imperative for screening and testing new therapies and vaccine candidates.


Institute for Glycomics (QLD)

Developing a rapid assay system

Researchers are working to establish a rapid assay system to evaluate potential drug and vaccine candidates that can prevent the entry of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). This system is currently being used in collaboration with the other research teams within the Institute for Glycomics for the development of therapeutics. A laboratory-based evaluation system will help to filter out less-promising candidates early on, thereby enabling us to place our resources behind the most promising therapeutic strategy.

Biophysical drug screening

Researchers have developed propriety biophysical drug screening approaches that allow for the rapid screening of known drugs that can be repurposed to target crucial steps in infectious disease processes.

Using human modelling systens to evaluate drugs

Researchers are using advanced ex vivo (outside the body) human respiratory system models to evaluate existing drugs, and combinations, as drug candidates to prevent or treat COVID-19. Professor von Itzstein AO, who led the team that designed, synthesised and biological evaluated the world’s first approved designer anti-influenza drug Relenza®, said his research group’s approach to finding a cure for COVID-19 was unique in the country as the human respiratory models they employ were the closest to a real human system, without working in a human patient.

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Mental Health


Black Dog Institute (NSW)

Creating tools and resources for the public

Black Dog Institute have created tools and resources, which can be accessed by anyone, anywhere to help deal with anxiety and stress related to COVID-19. Further research includes:

  • An online study to understand how COVID-19 is impacting the mental health of Australian adults, and what people are doing to stay mentally healthy during this time, more on Black Dog’s website.
  • A systematic review on mental health risks of health professionals during COVID-19.
  • Published in The Lancet, Black Dog led a collaboration with 24 international leading mental health experts, looking at the psychological, social, and neuroscientific effects of COVID-19. It also set’s out clear immediate research priorities and longer-term strategies. More on Black Dog’s website.
  • Research into unemployment as a mental health risk factor during COVID-19.


Orygen (VIC)

Orygen has contributed significantly to work that tries to model the impact of COVID-19 on mental health outcomes for the coming years, along with the Brain & Mind Institute at the University of Sydney.

Researchers have also begun other research studies in:

  1. Young people’s mental health and online/social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. An investigation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clients in early psychosis services
  3. The impact of COVID-19 on youth mental health services

These studies are all collaborations between clinical services and researchers, and represent an effort to understand how the pandemic and the response to it are affecting both young people’s mental health and the way in which services are being delivered.



Making resources available for free, online

SAHMRI’s Wellbeing & Resilience Centre used to deliver face-to-face, two-day workshops, however restrictions on gatherings made this impossible. So, with such a pressing demand for mental health care in our current circumstances, the Centre is now recording its sessions and make them available, for free, on the dedicated website


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (VIC)

Vulnerable children and families

Professor Vicki Anderson and Harriet Hiscock are undertaking in depth mental health research to understand the impact of COVID-19, subsequent recovery processes and factors that confer resilience on Victoria’s most vulnerable children and their families. Groups include children with chronic illnesses, existing mental health conditions, disabilities, intellectual disability and refugee children.


Kirby Institute (NSW)

Studying the impact of self-isolation

Kirby Institute researchers are looking at the experiences of people in Australia who have been or are currently in self-isolation to identify factors that can provide support to these individuals.


Telethon Kids Institute (WA)

ORIGINS Community Wellbeing during COVID-19 Project

The Project will collect further information about the impact COVID-19 is having on families and how they are coping, from a holistic perspective including financial situation, family function and emotional wellbeing. Researchers have also developed studies to assess the impact of working from home on the health and wellbeing of staff, the impacts of pets and physical activity in helping children through COVID-19.


Hunter Medical Research Institute (NSW)

Upscaling of ‘eCliPSE mental health pop up platform

Prevention and early intervention for mental health problems in Australians impacted by COVID-19. This program will provide support over the longer term as the social, mental, and economic impacts of

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Indigenous Health



Using previous studies to stay in contact

SAHMRI’s Aboriginal Health Equity theme is maintaining contact with people who’ve previously participated in various studies to check on their welfare and ensure they have access to the knowledge, resources and support needed during these circumstances. The group’s male and female facilitators are brokering and connecting to services via an adapted online approach.


The George Institute (NSW)

Creating culturally appropriate messaging

The Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program team are working with communities and Aboriginal health organisations around culturally appropriate COVID-19 messaging and crisis response.


Menzies School of Health Research (NT)

COVID-19 health messaging in language

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of Menzies researchers have developed a series of videos for people living in Aboriginal communities with health conditions such as chronic kidney, lung and/or heart disease. Read more on Menzies website.

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COVID-19 Testing and Diagnostics


Garvan Institute (VIC)

Developing a test to predict COVID-19 infection severity

Garvan researchers are using cellular genomics and machine learning techniques to investigate the vastly different immune responses between patients with mild and severe symptoms. The researchers will analyse the immune cells of COVID-19 patients with both mild and acute respiratory symptoms, at different time points. Using protocols already developed at the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics, the researchers plan to develop a rapid test to generate cellular information that could help predict a patient’s disease severity and inform potential treatment options, in real-time.


Burnet Institute (VIC)

Developing rapid diagnostic tests

Burnet Institute are enhancing detection of COVID-19 in our community and understanding community transmission. Work is progressing on the development of a rapid diagnostic test to help identify people who have been infected with COVID-19.


WEHI (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research) (VIC)

c-FIND, a new proposed rapid diagnostic tool

WEHI is developing a new rapid diagnostic tool for coronavirus called c-FIND. The test is being developed to detect infections much faster than existing tests, and to detect viral infections even if a person shows no symptoms. c-FIND would be suitable for rapid screening at hospitals, general practice clinics or airports, allowing infected people to be identified, isolated and managed to prevent disease spread. More on the Institute’s website.


St Vincent’s Institute, Burnet Institute (VIC) and Doherty Institute (VIC)

SVI’s National Serology Reference Laboratory (NRL)

The NRL is part of a new Victorian consortium that received $4 million from the Victorian State Government to develop diagnostic technologies, undertaken clinical research and strengthen the public health response to the virus. NRL will develop a biorepository of well-characterised patient samples, along with antibody reference and confirmatory tests, to ensure the accuracy of new diagnostic tests as they become available. In addition, NRL will develop assays to detect and confirm the presence of viral antibodies and register the tests to allow for their use in Australia, which will allow better tracking of the disease and progress research into vaccine development.


QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QLD)

Working out who has immunity and why some patients get sicker than others

The QIMR Berghofer are developing a test to detect who has immunity to the virus, and understanding why some patients become severely sick while others develop only mild symptoms. They will also develop a repository of samples from patients with COVID-19 that can be used in a range of research projects. More on the QIMR Berghofer website.

Using safe doses of COVID-19 in healthy human clinical trials to develop tests

Researchers plan to develop a way to test treatments for COVID-19 infection in clinical trials. They will do this by developing a way to deliberately infect healthy volunteers with a COVID-19 that is different from the one causing the current pandemic and only causes mild infection similar to the common cold.


The John Curtin School of Medical Research (ACT)

COVID-19 Community Testing

A collaborative research program is being developed with researchers at The John Curtin School of Medical Research and across The Australian National University, together with Canberra Health Services and ACT Health to contribute to the understanding of COVID-19 infection and immune responses through extensive SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid and serology testing. As part of the collaboration, the ANU will be able to perform high throughput testing for both acute and previous infection using optimised nucleic acid tests (NAT) and newly developed ELISA-based antibody tests. The focus of this research program will be surveillance of vulnerable populations in which social distancing is not possible. The program will significantly increase the availability of COVID-19 testing within the ACT, facilitating the extension of vital testing services to vulnerable groups and institutions.


Doherty Institute (VIC)

The Doherty Institute are working on four different projects in this area:

  1. The development of a new, simpler Australian coronavirus pathology test
  2. The development of new testing protocols to enable more individuals to be tested simultaneously
  3. Development of a deployment framework for newly approved coronavirus serology tests
  4. Assessing how and when to use serology testing.

More on the Doherty’s website.

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Data modelling


Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (NSW)

Modelling the impact

Dr Greg Fox from the Woolcock Institute has modelled the impact of COVID-19 upon intensive care services in New South Wales, published in the Medical Journal of Australia.


Doherty Institute (VIC)

Modelling utilised by Commonwealth Government

Doherty Institute researchers have released their work on COVID-19 modelling to the general public. These models have been utilised by the Commonwealth Government in the public health response to COVID-19. More on the Doherty Institute website.



Modelling impact for elderly patients

The SAHMRI-based Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA), is performing research that will inform health departments’ preparations to cope with the suspected increase in elderly patients with viral pneumonia. To accurately predict the response needed, ROSA is first examining where we’re coming from. The team is analysing data of viral pneumonia hospitalisations among the residential aged care population from 2013 to 2017. They’re examining what specific procedures (eg ventilators or intubations) were needed, where cases escalated to intensive care and why, the average length of hospital stay, rates of readmission and number of deaths.


Telethon Kids Institute (WA)

Mapping the local and global impact

Telethon Kids’ Geospatial Health team are working with WA local authorities on modelling the pandemic to assist with government decision making while they are also significantly contributing to the World Health Organization’s efforts to map the global impact of COVID-19 on other diseases such as Malaria. While two existing studies looking at respiratory infections in children have been adapted to track COVID-19 as well as other infections.


The Institute has a partnership project with the WA Departments of Health and Education, DETECT:Schools which aims to provide evidence around SARS-CoV-2 risk within schools, assess any potential transmission within schools as well as the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on students, families and staff across the education sector. This will be a crucial piece to assist with informing public policy.


Kirby Institute (NSW)

Using modelling to understand the risks and spread among different populations

The Kirby Institute are currently using the following modelling:

  • Mathematical modelling to evaluate the response to COVID-19 in remote Aboriginal communities.
  • Estimates and projections of COVID-19 in the Western Pacific, which will provide mathematical modelling support to countries in the Western Pacific region.
  • Modelling the spread of COVID-19 in the NSW prisons.
  • Weekly Case Projections and Analysis of Local Growth Rates for COVID-19 in NSW, involves ongoing analysis and modelling of cases that have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • COVID19 modelling and risk analysis, which uses a transmission model for COVID-19 that can be used to answer a range of urgent policy questions.

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Understanding the virus (and its interaction with other conditions)


Garvan Institute (NSW)

Detecting different responses to the virus through genetic variation

Researchers from the Garvan Institute are sequencing the coronavirus genome in infected patients to detect genetic variation that could provide critical data to inform Australia’s COVID-19 response in real-time. The team’s work has potential to shed light on how the coronavirus evolves, identify virus sub-strains that may be more or less infectious and crucially, guide better treatments. Read more on the Garvan’s website.


Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (VIC)

Investigating how the virus interacts with the immune system of cancer patients

In Professor Joe Trapani’s Cancer Immunology Program, where research focuses on how the immune system responds to cancer, several members of the research team are now being redeployed to investigate how coronavirus interacts with the immune system of cancer patients, while others are working on whole new immune-based therapies to kill the virus. The researchers are following every possible lead to reduce the added burden of coronavirus infection on cancer patients as well as halting the progression of their cancer.

Research to prevent cancer patients contracting the virus

Professor Karin Thursky is aiming to discover how to prevent cancer patients from contracting coronavirus, as well as evaluating the treatment of coronavirus in patients in real-time, allowing intervention methods to be adapted rapidly from the laboratory to the bed-side.


The George Institute (NSW)

‘Count Me In’: a national research register of one million Australians involved in COVID-19 research

The COVID-19 pandemic requires a massive, co-ordinated and immediate research response. Central to the success of the research effort will be the ability to rapidly engage the broader Australian community. Dr Clare Arnott, together with UNSW’s Professor Louisa Jorm, will lead a team to establish a novel research register, ‘Count Me In’, designed to transform the engagement of the Australian community in research. The team, including The Institute’s Professor Anthony Rogers and Helen Monaghan, will work with Professor Jorm to establish and operate a secure technical platform to host and interrogate routinely collected health data for use by COVID-19 researchers.

Tracking the burden of the virus in aged care

The Institute is part of a large team working with the Western Sydney Centre for Population Health to track the burden of viral diseases in aged care facilities in the west of Sydney. The study is looking at attack rate, hospitalisation, and death rates of viral respiratory infection outbreaks in adults aged over 65 years in these facilities.


Burnet Institute (VIC)

Creation of biobank of biological samples

With the Alfred Hospital, Burnet has established a biobank of biological samples from COVID patients classifying samples by patients who suffered mild or severe disease. This will help them understand how the human immune system reacts to the virus and how to predict early in the disease exactly who will become seriously ill.

Documenting maternity health response

The Institute are documenting the maternity health system response to the COVID19 pandemic, especially the planning, processes and impacts on women, newborns and health staff. They will provide critical insights to guide maternity service adaptations for COVID-19, and strengthen preparedness for future pandemics and other large-scale emergencies.

Image credit: Burnet Institute.


The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (NSW)

Impact on pre-existing heart conditions

Scientists are researching how coronavirus affects the health of people with known heart conditions and if individuals with inherited heart disease have more severe COVID-19 symptoms. The team hopes to find out whether COVID-19 infection accelerates heart disease in families with inherited heart muscle and rhythm disorders, with a focus on patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, and/or atrial fibrillation. Specifically, they will be researching if a patient has one of the above conditions and contracts COVID-19, is onset of disease earlier, are the symptoms worse and do they progress to heart failure faster.

Side effects of potential COVID-19 medications

The Institute is investigating the potential side effects of drugs being used to try and treat COVID-19. Some medications being trialled can cause serious heart rhythm disturbances. One drug that that has gained particular attention recently, since being promoted by President Trump is hydroxychloroquine, a drug that is used to treat lupus and malaria but has been considered for COVID-19. However, it is also possible that the treatment may have a negative impact on heart health. In particular, in some patients it may cause acquired or drug induced long QT syndrome, which can make it more likely that patients develop a fatal heart rhythm disorder.


National Ageing Research Institute (VIC)

An international social study of the health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19

This study aims to understand how COVID-19 affects the health and wellbeing of adults living in Australia during the restrictions and acute phase of the pandemic, and also when restrictions lift and in the recovery phase. NARI will explore the short and long term experience of emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing, including the social functioning of individuals living in Australia. The study uses a longitudinal, mixed-methods design. The quantitative survey investigates health, psychological traits, behaviours and attitudes relating to COVID-19, mental health, stressors, loneliness and isolation, and activities in which people are engaging. Participants will also be invited to participate in a single qualitative interview. This study replicates and extends a study initiated by University College London, which is also being conducted in the USA, allowing for international comparison of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Results will inform future decisions and policies on COVID-19, both nationally and internationally. For more information on the study, or for international information visit the March Network website.


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (VIC)


Professor Melissa Wake leads GenV (Generation Victoria) – the biggest study following parents and newborn babies in the world. GenV involves linking existing and new data and samples and making them available for study. GenV data will deliver a broader, deeper evidence base about the effects of COVID-19, the disruptions it causes, and the various interventions to mitigate it.

Age-specific coagulation

Professors Paul Monagle and Vera Ignjatovic are investigating the contribution of age-specific differences in blood clotting to the age-specific epidemiology of COVID-19. Understanding the mechanisms of clot formation in patients with COVID-19 will identify drug targets that could alleviate the devastating blood clot-related complications in infected patients.

The First Few X Study (FFX)

A/Prof Nigel Crawford and Dr Shidan Tosif is leading Victoria’s contribution to a World Health Organisation led study aiming to examine key clinical, epidemiological, virological characteristics and transmission within families of the first 100 cases of COVID-19 infection in countries across the globe.


Centenary Institute (NSW)

Understanding aged susceptibility

One of the most striking features of COVID-19 is its high morbidity and mortality in the aged. The underlying biology of this susceptibility is unknown. The researchers aim to dissect the link between COVID-19 and the aged and understand the inflammatory response of young versus aged individuals, with a particular focus on the endothelium.

Investigation of non-tuberculous mycobacteria co-infections

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria are prevalent in at-risk groups such as COPD patients, co-infections are a common feature of COVID-19 mortalities. Projects are: 1) Vaccination against Mycobacterium abscessus, 2) Better in vivo model of antibiotic treatments against chronic M. abscessus infection to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in our high risk patient populations.

Identification of mechanisms of infection & replication

Researchers will use CRISPR genome editing of human cells to identify factors that can modulate COVID-19. This has the potential to help us develop new COVID-19 medicines that are rapidly translatable.

Investigation of non-tuberculous mycobacteria co-infections

In collaboration with clinicians caring for COVID-19 patients we will assess innate and anti-viral immune responses (immune cell populations, serum antibodies, serum cytokines and whole blood transcriptomic responses) in the blood of COVID-19 patients with different symptoms to understand the links. We will also assess COVID-19 infection in health workers in clinical settings using serology and investigate household transmission. Will also investigate the effect of COVID-19 infection on susceptibility to tuberculosis infection.

Understanding why the elderly are more susceptible to COVID-19

Interstitial lung macrophages (large white blood cells) are critical in organising the immune response in the lung. Located in the interstitium where the exacerbated immune response that kills COVID-19 patients occurs, these cells might play a critical role in the disease’s development. The researchers will determine whether this is the case in mouse models. They will particularly investigate whether the number of these interstitial macrophages increases with age as this might explain why the coronavirus is more severe in older infected patients.


Hunter Medical Research Institute (NSW)

Immune response study

Professor Peter Wark is conducting a study to assess how the immune system responds to COVID-19. They are currently recruiting people from the area who have tested positive to the virus and now recovered to give a small sample of blood for analysis.


Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (VIC)

Determining the 3-D structure of proteins produced by the virus

A team of researchers from Monash University has determined the 3-D structure of one of the proteins produced by the novel coronavirus COVID-19. In order to make the structure available to the worldwide community, the data has been released on the pre-print journal, bioRxiv, and is currently undergoing peer review. More on the BDI website.


Robinson Research Institute (SA)

COVID-SA biobank to create immune profiles

The Robinson Research Institute will establish the COVID-SA biobank enabling an in-depth immunophenotyping study to be carried out on adults, pregnant mothers and children at risk from or with COVID-19. Specifically, they aim to establish evidence of altered immune cell subsets and immune profiles for different stages of infection and recovery, and for asymptomatic carriers.


Hudson Institute of Medical Research (VIC)

Understanding the immune response to the virus

It is not yet understood why some people infected with COVD-19 have mild or no obvious disease and recover, while others develop life-threatening illness. The disease severity is surprisingly low in children, but high in older people. A Hudson Institute and Monash Health collaboration will study the innate immune response of COVID-19-infected patients, comparing those who have mild disease and recover, with those who suffer severe disease requiring intensive care. The study will compare disease in adults and children.

This study aims to study a broad range of potential disease modifiers from patient genetics, to the nature of their immune cells and the molecules they produce. Understanding early, innate immune responses to COVID-19 will help scientists design vaccines to optimise successful protection.


Garvan Institute (VIC)

Tracing coronavirus evolution

Researchers from Garvan are sequencing the coronavirus genome in infected patients to detect genetic variation that could provide critical data to inform Australia’s COVID-19 response in real-time. The team’s work has potential to shed light on how the coronavirus evolves, identify virus sub-strains that may be more or less infectious and crucially, guide better treatments.

Investigating genes linked to severe COVID-19 in immune cells

Garvan researchers are leading a global effort to uncover how the genetics of different immune cells determines susceptibility, severity and outcomes of COVID-19. Researchers are analysing the data generated by the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative – a global collaboration working to identify the genetic basis for the immune system’s response to COVID-19. The team is leveraging existing genomic data available through OneK1K, a pioneering study investigating the genetic data of single cells from 1000 healthy individuals, to discover how genetics can control the immune system.

Developing a way to track mild COVID-19

Garvan researchers are developing a method for tracking COVID-19 in Australians enrolled in genomic studies. The research could identify groups of people with mild COVID-19, who may not have been tested, and uncover genetic variation linked to COVID-19 severity, potentially providing crucial insights into the underlying causes of severe symptoms. A further goal of the research is to determine impacts of comorbidities on COVID-19 patients.


Garvan Institute (NSW) and Kirby Institute (NSW)

Searching for genes key to COVID-19 Protection

Garvan researchers will undertake crucial research to determine the genetic basis of severe COVID-19. In collaboration with major Sydney hospitals and the UNSW Kirby Institute, the researchers will analyse the DNA of children and adults who were diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection and developed severe symptoms, despite not having any pre-existing health conditions. The research may point to new therapeutic targets for COVID-19 or could uncover existing medication that may help protect individuals against coronavirus infection. Read more on the Garvan’s website.


Wesley Medical Research (QLD)

COVID Critical – a global study to share insights, experience and expertise

Wesley Research are working on a global research study called COVID Critical, which involves over 280 centres across more than 40 countries. In this project, medical experts from across the globe will share critical insights, experience and expertise about COVID-19 patients are being treated in their hospitals. The research team will analyse the data in real time in Brisbane. Read more on the Wesley Research Institute website.


SAHMRI (SA) & the Doherty Institute (VIC)

FFX study – measuring infectiousness and severity in the first few days after infection

SAHMRI is working with SA Health, the University of Adelaide’s School of Public Health and the Doherty Institute on the FFX study. The project will measure the infectiousness and severity of COVID-19 in the First Few days after infection. The aim is increase understanding of how the virus spreads and its effect on patients and their families.


Doherty Institute (VIC)

Growing the virus in the laboratory

On Tuesday, 28 January, only a few days after diagnosing Victoria’s first positive novel coronavirus case, Doherty Institute scientists confirmed they had successfully grown the virus in the laboratory. The Institute was the first to grow the virus outside of China and share it with public health laboratories nationally and the World Health Organization.



Understanding COVID-19 in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia

The leader of SAHMRI’s Precision Medicine Theme initiated a global survey of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) patients who’ve contracted COVID-19. Some CML therapies suppress the immune system and some cause heart and lung toxicities raising concerns about COVID-19 posing higher risks to CML patients on active treatment. Through the International CML Foundation, Professor Hughes has released an initial information sheet and is developing more detailed evidence-based guidelines for clinicians and patients around the world.


Heart Research Institute (NSW)

The Heart Research Institute is undertaking multiple projects

  1. Understanding why over half of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients develop heart failure and rhythm disturbances in the heart – Cardiometabolic Disease Group in collaboration with Dr Sean Lal, The University of Sydney
  2. The interaction between COVID-19, myocardial ACE2 receptor, hypertension, and diabetes – Cardiometabolic Disease Group in collaboration with Dr Sean Lal, The University of Sydney
  3. Investigating whether COVID-19 induces blood clotting in the lungs and hearts of seriously ill patients and whether this contributes to cardiovascular death – Thrombosis Group in collaboration with clinicians at RPAH
  4. Investigating the role of COVID-19-induced inflammation in cardiovascular damage – Atherosclerosis and Vascular RemodellingHaematology, and Vascular Complications Groups
  5. Peptide specific blocking of the COVID-19 interaction with the ACE2 receptor to prevent cardiovascular complications – Atherosclerosis and Vascular RemodellingCardiometabolic DiseaseCardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery, and Vascular Complications Groups


Hunter Medical Research Institute (NSW)

ACE2 & Pregnancy

ACE2 is the receptor for the novel coronavirus as well as other SARS viruses. Dr Pringle and her colleagues have shown that pregnant women have significantly higher ACE2 levels in their blood than non-pregnant women. This research will enhance their understanding of COVID-19 transmission to the fetus in pregnancy and the impact of the virus to maternal health and pregnancy outcomes. It may also identify new avenues for treatment, for example the potential to treat patients with soluble ACE2 in airways to mop-up the virus before it infects the lung.


QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QLD)

QIMR Berghofer’s is undertaking multiple projects in this area:

  • Defining T cell responses to COVID-19 in both sick and recovered individuals. This work will provide a comprehensive understanding of the immune factors that make some people more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms and will help to develop new immune therapies to treat patients.
  • Using ‘human-heart-muscle-in-a-dish’ to examine how COVID-19 causes cardiotoxicity and screen for drugs to limit heart injury in COVID-19 patients.
  • Collecting information on COVID-19 from 80,000 Australians for whom researchers already have detailed genetic data will enable them to rapidly and cheaply identify genetic risk factors that might fast-track targets for drug development.
  • Determining the way people with blood cancers respond to COVID-19. Blood cancer treatments target immune cells that make antibodies to fight viruses. As COVID-19 is a new virus, it will allow researchers to understand how cancer treatment affects viral immunity and to better treat blood cancer patients.

More on the QIMR Berghofer website.

Image credit: QIMR Berghofer.


Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (NSW)

Researching the spread from ventilators in hospitals

Researchers are helping protect hospital staff from particles of COVID-19 spread from ventilators. The project aims to keep healthcare workers safe by understanding how the supply of oxygen aerosolizes the virus.


Baker Institute (VIC)

PREDICT – examining complications in patients with type 2 diabetes

The Baker Institute’s PREDICT study, which examines the complications arising from type 2 diabetes and their prevention, is being expanded to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people living with diabetes. Read more on the Baker Institute’s website.


Kirby Institute (NSW)

Designing research to better understand COVID-19 as it affects a range of populations

The following projects are underway:

  • The burden and prevention of influenza and COVID-19 in aged care facilities in Australia, which builds on an existing cohort study on influenza to identify the burden of COVID-19 in these settings.
  • Following Lives Undergoing Change (Flux), which will survey the existing database of people to monitor changes in sexual behaviour, drug use, health-seeking, and social connectedness among gay and bisexual men due to COVID-19 and impacts on trends in HIV and STIs.
  • A study of the global effects of Covid-19, which will examine the epidemiological and genetic factors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Natural history cohort following COVID-19 infection.
  • COHIVE: Coronavirus Outcomes in HIV Evaluation in Resource Limited Settings, which will monitor the impact and prevalence of COVID-19 infection among people living with HIV.
  • Coronavirus Outcomes Registries in Immunocompromised Individuals Australia, which will use existing clinical networks to monitor the impact and prevalence of COVID-19 on people with a range of immunocompromising conditions.
  • Risk factors associated with health facility-acquired COVID-19 among health care workers in NSW.
  • COVID-19 and the impact on NSW prisoners: A report for Legal Aid NSW, which is a report regarding the COVID-19 virus and the potential impact on the NSW prison population.
  • Serosurveillance for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection to inform public health responses, which will implement a series of serological surveys across Australia to understand and track the community prevalence of infection.
  • A study looking at aerosol dynamics of human coughs, sneezes and breathing.

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