In 2013, Wesfarmers partnered with the Telethon Kids Institute to establish the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, with a contribution of $5 million over four years. On establishment, the Centre identified three major streams: ear health research; group A streptococcus/rheumatic heart disease research; and research into the implementation of preventive and treatment strategies for severe infections into clinical practice.
In addition to fostering a vibrant, world-class community of researchers in Western Australia, by the end of the four-year agreement the Centre has accomplished a number of major achievements:
Starting a world-first clinical trial investigating whether a medication developed for cystic fibrosis is the answer to dissolving the sticky ‘glue’ that blocks the inner ear in glue ear (a major problem affecting nearly every child in remote Aboriginal communities, causing hearing loss and preventing learning).
Accelerating the development of a vaccine against group A streptococcus, in partnership with colleagues from New Zealand. For 1 in 20 Aboriginal people, group A streptococcus infection causes rheumatic heart disease, a common cause of death in early adulthood.
The introduction of additional whooping cough vaccines to Australia’s immunisation schedule, after research showed that protection wanes after a couple of years.
The funding provided by Wesfarmers is directed to core program activities. With these costs met, the Centre has been successful in securing an additional $28 million for research projects.
On the back of these significant achievements, in 2017 Wesfarmers agreed to extend the partnership for a further four years, increasing the contribution to $6 million. Wesfarmers believes this ongoing investment in cutting edge research and innovation today will have a lasting and changing impact on our future generations