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Asia Minute: Plans for largest medical donation in Australian history

Virus Outbreak Australia
Mark Baker/AP
FILE - Staff prepare to take COVID-19 tests at a testing station in Nelson Bay, Australia, Monday, June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Researchers in Australia are making plans for the largest donation in the country’s medical history.

The rapid development of vaccines against COVID-19 has inspired the largest single philanthropic gift in Australian medical history — aimed in a different direction.

It’s $250 million in Australian dollars — that’s about $172 million.

The contribution will be spread over 20 years — and is aimed at developing treatments to fight viruses — and to do so quickly when new viruses emerge.

Businessman Geoffrey Cumming made the gift. He’s a Canadian living in Australia who made his initial fortune in oil and gas and then built it by investing in solar energy.

The contribution will go to creating a new research facility focused not on vaccines, but on therapeutics — treatments for people who suffer from a new virus.

It’s different from the strategy of trying to prevent or slow viral transmission.

According to the journal Science, in the early days of the coronavirus, far more money was spent on developing vaccines than on developing treatments.

Cumming told Science that disparity led to his contribution, saying, “What struck me was how quickly we could make vaccines, and how slow we were with antivirals.”

The research center will be will part of the University of Melbourne — and funders hope to raise an overall total of one and a half billion dollars within the next decade.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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