The Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) enables and supports strategic national-scale facilities that provide tremendous benefit to the Australian researchers addressing key national and global challenges effectively and efficiently. NCRIS facilities bring together collaborative equipment, resources, analysis tools and, importantly, expert people.
In Australia, there has been over a decade of bi-partisan government support for research infrastructure. This has created a strong, agile, efficient, and accessible national research infrastructure ecosystem able to drive and facilitate collaborations and accelerate research.
Research activities to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 are no exception.
Australia is at the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccine development with key researchers using institutional and national research infrastructures and cooperating with commercial providers to accelerate COVID-19 responses. For example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) led vaccine development project at the University of Queensland and, the national science agency, CSIRO represents a systematic response that combines the efforts of national research infrastructure organisations including the Therapeutic Innovation Australia (TIA), Bioplatforms Australia (BPA), and CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP).
The rapid and collaborative response within Australia means CSIRO’s ACDP has already commenced the first stage of testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 and Queensland hospitals have started testing two potential treatments on patients with COVID-19 as part of an international clinical trial involving The University of Queensland.
The national reach and broad ranging capabilities on offer to researchers working to understand and find treatments for COVID-19 are highlighted in the table below.
The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC)
Large scale cloud computation
Discovery of and access to national and international data assets
International collaboration and coordination through the Research Data Alliance
Fast, efficient, and reliable research workflows through Virtual Laboratories such as Galaxy Australia
National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and Pawsey Supercomputing Centre (Pawsey)
Additional computation and data resources to support the national and international research community to acquire, process, analyse, store and share data supporting COVID-19 research
A COVID-19 special call for allocation of computational resources, which is intended to identify and provide resources to research projects directly responding to the pandemic
Astronomy Australia Ltd (AAL)
The BeatCOVID-19 Symptom Tracker was developed by a team of researchers from Swinburne University and involved the team from Astronomy Data and Computing Services (ADACS)* to gather symptom information to feed into research processes
*ADACS is enabled by NCRIS via AAL
The National Imaging Facility (NIF)
Support of drug and vaccine design and testing
Support of personal protective equipment and medical device development (i.e. ventilators)
Long-term patient outcome monitoring
Clinical tracer production and radiochemical development
The Population Health Research Network (PHRN)
Linkage of patient data
Secure remote-access data environments authorised to hold government data
Support for vaccine testing
Monitoring of long-term patient outcomes
Phenomics Australia (formerly known as Australian Phenomics Network)
Supports the creation, characterisation and curation of pre-clinical model systems for biomedical research
Has been mobilised to rapidly provide support to the national COVID-19 response, including for:
Design and delivery of customised, genetically-engineered (e.g. by CRISPR) animal and cell models
Improved understanding of COVID-19 pathogenesis
Discovery of therapeutic targets
Novel drug design, efficacy, and safety testing
Models and analyses for pre-clinical trials
Vaccine development and testing
Maintaining a source for national and international supply and distribution of customised animal and cell resources
Cryopreservation and reanimation of mouse strains through the Australian Phenome Bank
Therapeutic Innovation Australia (TIA)
Vaccine candidate development
TGA-licensed GMP testing to support production
Pilot-scale GMP production
TGA-licenced production of cell therapies for clinical trial and patient use
Patient sample collection and apheresis
Supply and screening of known drug libraries
Drug optimisation and advice on development strategy
Preclinical and toxicological testing of small molecules, biologics and vaccine candidates
Clinical trial support
Launched Pipeline Accelerator COVID-19, a voucher-style researcher access scheme to respond quickly to the needs of researchers and industry engaged in research related to COVID-19
Bioplatforms Australia (BPA)
CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP)
Physical Containment (PC) 4 Zoonosis Suite
Large and small animal Facility
Biosecure Immunology Laboratory
While the above list covers only a selection of NCRIS facilities, it demonstrates how national infrastructures are able to work in concert to address the full research lifecycle, providing powerful sets of tools for Australian researchers on the COVID-19 pandemic and other national and global challenges.
Visit the ARDC website for more information about our services and how to collaborate with us. The ARDC is here to provide researchers with a competitive advantage through data.
Image credit: Image of SARS-CoV-2 taken on Microscopy Australia’s transmission electron microscope at CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness