Australia and the world are facing an extraordinary challenge as the burden of COVID-19 rises. The pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation and we are working with our Fellows to monitor and respond to the outbreak and we are liaising with the Chief Medical Officer and others as they work to manage it effectively. 

Through this page, you can follow our response and find updates on the impact of our work.

Rapid Research Information Forum

The Academy is working as part of the Rapid Research Information Forum, a group chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO FAA FTSE FAHMS. The expert forum provides a mechanism for the government to receive scientific input and evidence-based responses on questions regarding COVID-19. 

The group produces briefings that summarise the current evidence in a particular area.

To read more about the Forum’s outputs, visit our dedicated page

Publications and outputs

We published a statement on the Australian response to the pandemic on 20 March and our founding President, Professor Ian Frazer AC FRS FAA FTSE FAHMS, spoke about it with Fran Kelly on ABC RN Breakfast. Read the full statement here. 

Our 18 May statement on the ongoing situation supported the introduction and use of the COVIDSafe app as a valuable and important innovation in Australia’s continuing efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full statement here

Last year, the Academy’s Annual Meeting in Perth focused on ‘Infectious disease threats: old and new’, and considered national and global prospects for addressing current and emerging threats, pandemic preparedness, antimicrobial resistance, and disease elimination strategies.

Activities and events

The Academy hosted COVID-19 webinar: Where to from here? Charting a course for resilience and recovery, on 29 April 2020. It featured experts from infectious diseases, epidemiology, intensive care, mental health and economics.  If you missed it, you can catch up here or read the report on 

Coronavirus Australia: Diseases expert rejects use of second wave term
Coronavirus Australia: The decision that saved Australia from a COVID-19 death toll of thousands

For more details on the event, head to our events page

Our COVID-19 Expert Committee, chaired by Professor Tania Sorrell AM FAHMS, is coordinating much of our work on COVID-19.

COVID-19 Expert Database  

The Learned Academies COVID-19 Expert Database has been created to provide a mechanism for governments, the business sector, research sector, and other decision-makers to easily access the expertise they need to inform their decision making. It serves as a hub for interdisciplinary expertise on COVID-19 and its widespread impacts on Australia and the world. Fellows, Associate Members and other researchers with relevant expertise can sign up here

How are our Fellows contributing to the response?

Many of the Academy’s Fellows and Associate Members are working at the front line of responding to this outbreak and sharing their scientific expertise through various outlets.

A small snapshot of their activities includes the following:

  • Professor Sharon Lewin AO is Director of the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, which is working directly across many areas of the pandemic. She co-chairs the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee and has contributed to many public discussions, including on the ABC’s Q&A program.
  • Professor Katherine Kedzierska, Lab Head at the Doherty Institute, is leading work to understand the scientific detail of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, including how the body responds to the virus
  • Professor Mark Pelligrini, Division Head for Infectious Diseases and Immune Defence at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), is leading work on treatments and diagnostics at WEHI, including a trial investigating the application of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used for treatment of malaria and certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus. 
  • Professor Ian Frazer AC and Professor Peter Doherty AC have participated in a series by the Australian Academy of Science on the latest science on the coronavirus. Their interviews can be viewed on the AAS’ website.
  • Professor Steve Webb FAHMS is leading an international clinical trial exploring treatments for patients in intensive care with COVID-19, called REMAP-CAP

We are keen to hear from Fellows and Associate Members involved in research to address this pandemic and also welcome their input into the Academy’s work on this important issue – they should contact the Academy’s CEO, Catherine Luckin.

How are our activities and programs impacted?

The Academy is fully operational, but all staff members are currently working remotely. We can be reached via phone and email via the regular contact information

Due to the current restrictions on public gatherings, we have had to postpone a number of our events, including our Life as a Clinician Scientist events in Brisbane (March), Sydney (May), Canberra (June) and Melbourne (July), and some of our policy meetings. For more information on these, please contact the Academy policy staff.

Our Fellowship election and selection for the Jian Zhou Medal will proceed and we are working with selection committees and referees to accommodate the challenges now presented by COVID-19, including by extending deadlines where possible. We are liaising with them directly, but queries can be emailed to [email protected]

At this stage, we are still hoping to proceed with our Annual Meeting on 14-16 October 2020 in Sydney and will continue to provide updates through our event page. 


Image credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH