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4 May 2020 Statement

CSIRO undertakes all research in accordance with strict biosecurity and legislative requirements and takes safety and security very seriously. The Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong is a high biocontainment facility, established in 1985, and the only facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere able to work with the most dangerous infectious agents in the world in order to protect animal and human health.

Strict security applies to facility access, with a requirement for Australian Government security clearance for all staff working in PC3 or PC4 high containment laboratories. CSIRO collaborates with scientists and research institutions from around the world because it assists in understanding more about challenges such as human diseases prevention and management.

No experiments have been carried out at the ACDP which could be considered ‘gain of function’ experiments. ACDP has a stringent process for evaluation of all proposed research under DURC (Dual Use Research of Concern) guidelines.

While no research is currently being carried out on live bats at the ACDP, bats are a known reservoir of coronaviruses and bat research is critical, underpinning much of our understanding of zoonotic diseases which now account for seventy-five per cent of human diseases. CSIRO’s previous bat research has helped us develop the world’s first vaccine for the deadly Hendra virus and determined that SARS originated in bats. CSIRO was the first organisation to understand this. CSIRO continues to provide diagnosis in cases of suspected infection with bat lyssavirus.

CSIRO has been working around-the-clock in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and save lives. In less than three months we have progressed our vaccine work to a stage that would have ordinarily taken years to reach. This has only been made possible by previous pivotal research into bats.

Recent media reports by News Limited have referenced two scientists who have previously worked at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP). One for three years between 2011 and 2014, and another as a visiting scientist for three months in 2006.

As a National Facility to industry and government, ACDP delivers:

  • Research - conducts science to understand and help manage new and emerging infectious diseases that affect both animals and people
  • Policy advice and training - integrates and synthesises diagnostic and research science to provide technical policy advice and training to state, national and international biosecurity and health agencies on disease management and mitigation strategies
  • Diagnosis, surveillance and response - fulfilling our National Facility responsibility to perform diagnostic sciences to identify, monitor and respond.

Through partnerships with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ACDP is an accredited reference laboratory and collaborating centre for a range of diseases.

Update 3 August 2021:

The topic of Gain of Function research was raised at the Senate Estimates hearing on 3 June 2021, where CSIRO took on notice to provide more information to the Senate.  CSIRO’s response has been tabled, and is publicly available on the website of the Parliament of Australia.

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