CSIRO Partners To Strengthen Regional Health

CSIRO

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, will partner with governments across the Pacific and Southeast Asia to help them better prepare for, and respond to, disease outbreaks.

Emerging and endemic infectious diseases in humans and animals pose a major challenge in the Pacific and Southeast Asia regions.

Globally, more than 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (transmitted from animals to humans), with a 300 per cent increase in outbreaks over the past 30 years. Recent examples include COVID-19 and avian influenza.

CSIRO will partner with nations including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, and Fiji to improve their ability to identify, track and react to health emergencies.

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Doug Hilton, said an investment in the health of the region is an investment in the health of Australia.

“Building stronger, more resilient health systems in the Pacific and Southeast Asia creates shared success, prosperity, stability and trust in science,” Dr Hilton said.

“It protects human and animal health; ensures equitable and inclusive health outcomes; and strengthens regional economic security, productivity, trade, tourism and development.”

Guided by regional priorities identified by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and regional partners, CSIRO will begin by helping with laboratory capacity building, biomedical manufacturing training, digital health expertise, and building health networks.

CSIRO will also offer access to its multidisciplinary expertise across animal and human health as well as its facilities, such as the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP), National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab, and Australian e-Health Research Centre.

The five ACDP projects will strengthen:

  • animal health laboratory networks and leadership across southeast Asia and the Pacific, through cross-region lab placements and by building lab leadership capability in Vietnam
  • regional networks and building laboratory diagnostic and leadership capacity for avian influenza in Indonesia and across Southeast Asia and the Pacific
  • field animal health diagnostic capacity and networks for Pacific Island nations and territories
  • biorisk management training for laboratory personnel, and the development of a network of biorisk leaders across Southeast Asia and the Pacific
  • viral emerging infectious disease testing at high-risk locations such as wildlife markets in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and the Philippines.

A biomanufacturing partnership will also strengthen Thailand and the Southeast Asia region’s capabilities to develop and manufacture vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, and small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).

CSIRO will help build capability and skills in Thailand in the process development and scale-up capabilities needed to produce complex products, starting with the development of an anti-cancer drug and an anti-viral.

The Australian e-Health Research Centre will use its world leading capabilities in digital health to assist partners in the Philippines and Fiji adopt international open health data and interoperability standards. These standards enable safer, consistent, equitable and effective health data exchange between nations; and the creation of real-time systems for disease making and disease surveillance.

DFAT will provide $15 million in funding for the partnership, and CSIRO a further $9.2m million, plus access to its researchers, expertise and facilities.

“We look forward to working with regional partners to help them build more resilient health systems, address their current and future challenges, and ensure they have the right tools and training to protect our region from the spread of disease,” Dr Hilton said.

“CSIRO has clear scientific strengths in health, biosecurity, and infectious disease, as well as decades of experience in health system strengthening in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, which continue to improve lives around the world.”

The new partnerships are part of the Australian Government’s five-year $620 million Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative, which is supporting partner nations to build resilient and equitable health systems.

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