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Nicholas Fisk, Rebecca Guy, Anthony Kelleher, Raina MacIntyre and William Rawlinson: What do we need to discover about COVID-19?

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As many of us have become armchair experts in virus transmission and ‘flattening the curve’, it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in information about COVID-19. Although new aspects of the virus continue to emerge daily in the terrifying living laboratory the world has become, there is still so much we don’t know. As we grapple with the enormous disruption the virus has brought, what have we found out so far? Is a vaccine really on the horizon?

Nicholas Fisk, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), hosts a panel of medical experts, Rebecca Guy, Anthony Kelleher, Raina MacIntyre and William Rawlinson, as they discuss what we need to discover or invent to make sure we are better equipped to face the future. 

The term herd immunity has been bandied about in a very misinformed way, it’s a term that comes up from vaccination not natural infection. If natural infection got rid of infections we wouldn’t have measles. We wouldn’t have needed to vaccinate against small pox it would have just eradicated itself. But unfortunately that’s not what happens, you just get recurrent waves of epidemics.

Raina MacIntyre

The real question is: are you immune post infection, if you are for how long and how do we measure it? If we could answer that we could establish a population of immune people and we could give some guarantees.

William Rawlinson

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This talk is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and the Kirby Institute.

Photo of Nicholas Fisk

Nicholas Fisk

Professor Nicholas Fisk is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW Sydney. His research is in the fields of developmental biology and maternal-fetal medicine, and he is the author of more than 400 publications. He has served in leadership roles in a number of international and national organisations, including as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He joined UNSW from the University of Queensland, where he was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the inaugural Director of the University of Queensland's $70 million Centre for Clinical Research. He was elected to Fellowship of the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in 2014.

Photo of Rebecca Guy

Rebecca Guy

Professor Rebecca Guy is a Professor in Epidemiology at the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney. She has expertise in surveillance and evaluation of public health interventions related to HIV and sexually transmissible infections. Her research focuses on reducing the impact of HIV sexually transmissible infections (STIs), and more recently, COVID-19 in vulnerable populations, including implementation and evaluation of point-of-care testing and prevention initiatives to reduce the transmission of HIV and STIs (including HPV) in a range of settings. Her research also focuses on optimising antibiotic treatment of STIs and using diagnostics to improve antibiotic stewardship.

Photo of Anthony Kelleher

Anthony Kelleher

Professor Anthony Kelleher is the Director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW. He is a leading HIV clinical scientist who has been involved with every HIV vaccine trial conducted in Australia, and multiple phase I-IV clinical trials, particularly those involving patients with primary infection.  He is currently working on mapping the HIV reservoir and developing a novel “block and lock” approach towards clinical application, and is also leading major projects investigating antibody therapies to treat COVID-19. Professor Kelleher has been Head of the Immunovirology and Pathogenesis Program at the Kirby Institute since 2005. He is also a clinical academic at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, responsible for clinical care of patients with HIV infection and autoimmune diseases as well as oversight of the NSW State HIV Reference laboratory.


Raina MacIntyre

Professor Raina MacIntyre is a dual-specialist physician with a masters and PhD in epidemiology, training in outbreak investigation and over 450 scientific publications. She is a leader in pandemics, bioterrorism, vaccines and facemasks, on expert committees for the WHO and other bodies. She has won many awards including the Sir Henry Wellcome Medal and Prize from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States and the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and Innovation.    

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William Rawlinson

Professor William Rawlinson AM is a Senior Medical Virologist and the Director of Virology at South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Health Service. He is a distinguished molecular virologist with particular scientific expertise in herpes viruses (CMV), hepatitis virus (HCV), enteroviruses, and respiratory viruses. His contributions to science includes new testing algorithms for common viral illnesses, sequencing and analysis of the murine CMV genome, unique studies of congenital CMV and the placenta, unique data on endogenous viruses and cancer, and he continues to directly supervise projects within these areas. He has received multiple awards in science and is on advisory boards to the NSW and Commonwealth Departments of Health.

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