New hub of research excellence harnesses collective capabilities 

The Centre for Innovation in Infectious Disease and Immunology Research (CIIDIR), an initiative of the Deakin University and Barwon Health partnership, was established in 2022 to build on strengths in human infectious disease, microbiome and immunology research, linking to a national network to enhance the response to emerging and existing infectious disease threats locally and globally. 

 In 2020, initiatives such as the Deakin–Barwon Health COVID-19 Research Taskforce highlighted the collective power of infectious diseases expertise in Geelong. Several high-profile researchers, clinicians and public health practitioners rapidly mobilised to establish a COVID-19 Observational Cohort Study and develop transdisciplinary research projects. Together, they amassed more than $1 million in external funding for COVID-19 research.   

During the same period, IMPACT and Barwon Health increased capacity in microbiome and immunology research, and saw an opportunity to capitalise on the population health and laboratory capacity at the Health, Education and Research Building (HERB) in Geelong to further strengthen these areas and complement nutrition and mental health research in the building.   

The partnership also saw an urgent need to link these previously disparate areas of research. CIIDIR was created to capitalise on new opportunities in these areas by bringing together infectious disease, microbiome and immunology expertise across the University and Barwon Health.

Professor Eugene Athan and Professor Alyssa Barry

Led by IIC researchers Alyssa Barry and Eugene Athan, the centre will foster cross-disciplinary collaboration to conduct innovative, locally relevant and internationally important research that will enhance the prevention, control and treatment of infectious and immune-mediated diseases. CIIDIR also aims to build links with external partners as a hub of research excellence.

Through research in key areas, CIIDIR will build translational platforms for clinical practice innovation and public health policy. The centre’s activities will be structured into four research pillars – molecular microbiology, immunity and inflammation, population health and biology, and clinical and public health research – that span the discovery-to-translation pipeline, which aims to produce real outcomes for human health.

The molecular microbiology pillar will focus on fundamental research on host-pathogen and medical device interactions to decipher biological pathways that are critical for infection and inflammation.  

Professor Eugene Athan and Professor Alyssa BarryActivities in immunity and inflammation will prioritise basic and translational research on immunity and inflammation, and microbial diversity (pathogens and microbiome), to inform vaccine and biomarker development and therapeutic interventions.  

 The population health and biology pillar will encompass epidemiology and surveillance to understand patterns of disease and disease transmission in human populations, and development of innovative approaches for surveillance.  

 The fourth pillar, clinical and public health research, will comprise clinical studies of infectious disease and immune disorders, and implementation and operational research on public health interventions.  

Visit the CIIDIR website for more information here.

This article was published in our 2022 Annual Report. Looking for more? Check it out here.