The union representing CSIRO staff has welcomed news that a multi-million dollar upgrade of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory – to be renamed Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness – will proceed with an additional funding boost to support the facility’s research to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
CSIRO will spend $220 million to refurbish and upgrade the biosecurity centre – home to the only Physical Containment (PC) 4 laboratory in the southern hemisphere – funded partly by the planned sale of the organisation’s research farm located in Ginninderra on the outskirts of Canberra.
The Federal Government has also announced an additional $10 million to support CSIRO’s research into the novel coronavirus; which this week began animal testing into two potential vaccines in conjunction with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international public-private partnership which marshals global research to respond to disease epidemics.
The Geelong facility – first named the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) when opened in 1985 – will be now called the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP).
“The announcement of this scheduled upgrade of this critical scientific infrastructure is welcome and could not have come at a better time,” CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said.
“This laboratory has been the site of breakthrough research to better understand and respond to many zoonotic diseases such as Hendra, Zika and now COVID-19.”
“The announcement of an additional $10 million in research funding to support potential vaccine testing will help assist the global effort to resist the coronavirus pandemic however the Federal Government should immediately lift the staffing cap at CSIRO to ensure the organisation can continue to respond to national challenges without restriction,” Mr Popovski said.