Clive Berghofer AM donated $1million to the fight against COVID-19.
Clive Berghofer AM donated $1million to the fight against COVID-19. The Chronicle Archives

Clive Berghofer drops $1 million on COVID-19 research

UPDATE: IN HIS eight and half decades, Clive Berghofer has witnessed a lot of good and a lot of bad, but nothing has spooked him like COVID-19.

The deadly virus, which made the jump from animals to humans in early December, has spread to more than 80 countries and infected more than 400,000 people.

All in less than four months.

Mr Berghofer said COVID-19 was a serious public health threat that would only be defeated by a vaccine.

To that end, he donated $1 million to the QMIR Berghofer Medical Research Institute for its work on a cure.

"These are extraordinary times, and I cannot believe what has happened," Mr Berghofer said.

"We do not know how this will end.

"The whole world is affected, but the only thing we can do is get a vaccine and that could will take six to 18 months."

The QMIR Institute is well positioned to find a cure.

Mr Berghofer said it was established 75 years ago to cure illness and had a state-of-the-art research centre.

"It has the experience and the scientists, but it is short of the money," he said.

It is hoped the donation will inspire other Queensland philanthropists to contribute to the fight.

Mr Berghofer also challenged the State Government to match his pledge. 

EARLIER: TOOWOOMBA developer and philanthropist Clive Berghofer has donated $1 million to the fight against COVID-19. 

The money will boost a wide-ranging research program at QMIR Berghofer Medical Research Institute into the global pandemic.

The research will be aimed at laboratory screening of existing and potential new drugs, 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.

QIMR Berghofer's Acting Director and CEO, Professor David Whiteman, said the institute's biosecurity facility put it in an ideal position to join Australian and international scientists in the urgent search for new drugs.

"We have a world-class biosecurity research facility at QIMR Berghofer, which allows us to conduct exactly this sort of work into dangerous infectious diseases," Professor Whiteman said.

"This $1 million funding boost from Clive will allow us to set up that facility for a wide-ranging research program into COVID-19.

"Our scientists will grow the virus in this facility. They will then work with collaborators at other Queensland and Australian research organisations and biotech companies to rapidly screen potential new anti-viral drugs, and existing drugs that are approved for other uses, in the laboratory."

Professor Whiteman said the Institute would also work towards developing a test to identify people with immunity against the virus.

"We know that a proportion of people with COVID-19 only experience very mild symptoms and some do not even know they've been infected," he said.

"At the moment, no test can tell us if someone has previously been infected and has recovered, only if someone is currently infected.

"It looks likely that those who have recovered will have immunity against reinfection.

"This is important to know, since immune people can re-join the workforce and help support the economy.

"Our researchers will work towards developing a test that shows who has been infected and recovered so that those people, in particular doctors and nurses, can be at the front line of the response."

Prof Whiteman said the Institute also had several clinician-scientists with expertise in treating infectious diseases who would play a key role in the Institute's research efforts.

"Working at the coal-face of Queensland hospitals gives our clinician-researchers the opportunity to collect patient samples that can be tested in our laboratories," he said.

"These samples will help us to understand how the human body responds to this disease, and why some people become severely unwell, while others develop mild or no symptoms. This research is part of a worldwide effort to understand how this disease works."

QIMR Berghofer's COVID-19 research will also include:

  • Working to understand the virus's effect on the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Investigating the immune response to COVID-19 in cancer patients.
  • Trying to understand the genetics of how the human body responds to COVID-19.

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