$3.99 million project to protect Australia from zoonotic viruses

18 MAY 2022

$3.99 million project to protect Australia from zoonotic viruses

Charles Sturt research protecting Australia's agriculture from zoonotic diseases receives $3.99 million from round two of the Regional Research Collaboration Program.

  • Charles Sturt awarded $3.9 million for research grant through round two of the Regional Research Collaboration Program
  • The grant will fund research to protect Australia’s agriculture industry from the threat of zoonotic diseases
  • The project will run in partnership with AgriFutures, Australian National University, Australian Pork, Meat and Livestock Australia, Rivalea, Scolexia Pty Ltd, Monash University and University of Melbourne

Charles Sturt University has been successful in its bid for a collaborative research project to protect Australia against zoonotic and emerging viruses.

The $3.99 million research project will aim to reduce the disastrous impact on the Australian agriculture industry of Zoonotic diseases - those that can be transferred from animals to humans, or humans to animals.

Viruses which will be targeted include Avian Influenza, Swine-Flu, Australian Bat Lyssavirus, Hendra virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, West Nile virus, Murray Valley encephalitis virus, Ross River virus, and African swine fever virus.

Charles Sturt was awarded $3,998,721 from round two of the Regional Research Collaboration (RRC) program for its proposal titled, ‘Training Hub promoting Regional Industry and Innovation in Virology and Epidemiology (THRIIVE): Boosting Australia’s Agriculture and Manufacturing’.

The project will develop regional capacity and skills in agricultural epidemiology and disease modelling that will then lead to production of rapid diagnostics, antimicrobials, vaccines, and innovative therapeutics.

Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Renée Leon said this project will benefit multiple facets of the agriculture sector, including food and beverage, medical manufacturing, and livestock disease control.

“THRIIVE directly addresses the need for regional-based research by developing long-term strategic collaborations with industry and leading national and international research partners,” she said.

“It will produce innovative solutions to agricultural viral modelling, diagnostics, vaccine development, antivirals, and novel therapeutics. These products will then be pursued for commercialisation.

“Charles Sturt University is thankful for the funding and proud to be leading a project that will have so many benefits in protecting regional Australia.”

THRIIVEResearchers will be based regionally and collaborate with industry, while travelling to regional and remote areas to collect data and utilise national and international state-of-the-art research infrastructure.

THRIIVE will be completed in collaboration with AgriFutures, Australian National University, Australian Pork, Meat and Livestock Australia, Rivalea, Scolexia Pty Ltd, Monash University, and University of Melbourne (UoM).

Professor in Biochemistry with the Charles Sturt School of Dentistry and Medical Sciences Jade Forwood in Wagga Wagga is the project lead.

He said there are approximately 42,000 farms in NSW alone and supporting the health and wellbeing of the 66,000 people in NSW employed within this sector, and the livestock they oversee, is crucial for the stability of regional Australia.

Notable outbreaks of viral pathogens have occurred in recent years, resulting in millions of dollars of losses and eradication of hundreds of thousands of livestock.

“According to a 2020 study, the H7N2 outbreak in the poultry industry in 2013 cost the economy of the town of Young $3.5 million,” Professor Forwood said.

“The ongoing pandemic of African swine fever virus killed approximately 25 per cent of the world’s pig population in 2018-19, and an outbreak in Australia would devastate our pig industry, trade, and economy.

“Regional universities are ideally placed to play important roles in areas … that may lead to novel vaccine and anti-viral development.”

Professor Forwood said funding for this research will develop important initiatives to minimise and reduce these types of effects on the industry and economy.

Minister for Regional Education the Hon. Bridget McKenzie said the $3.9 million funding will assist Charles Sturt to reduce the impact on the Australian agriculture industry of zoonotic diseases.

“Australia produces world-class research, and we want our regions to contribute to that proud tradition as well as reap the benefits from it, creating more resilient regional economies,” she said.

“This project will benefit the nation’s entire agriculture industry, playing a key role in how we can protect against zoonotic diseases by building regional capability in disease modelling, molecular virology and novel therapies.

“This will enhance our regional workforce with skills in detective, treatment, management and eradication of zoonotic diseases to reach the faming sector’s goal of a $100 billion agricultural industry by 2030.”

The funding for the RRC Program is administered by the federal government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

THRIIVE will provide a long-term positive culture of respectful First Nations community engagement as well as promoting First Nations STEM industry education and leadership.

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on 0429 217 026 or news@csu.edu.au

Photo captions: (Image 1) Professor Jade Forwood with Gayle Paterson, Mikayla Hoad, Justin Roby and Emily Cross in the lab at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga and (image 2) Charles Sturt Professor in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health Marta Hernandez-Jover, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Mark Evans, Minister Bridget McKenzie, Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and Professor Jade Forwood at the announcement of the funding in Wagga Wagga. Photo by Jackie Cooper at Jack of Hearts Studio 

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Wagga Wagga Agricultural Science Charles Sturt University Research