27 October 2020

APPRISE is the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies. It was established in 2016 with an investment of $5 million funded by NHMRC and an additional $2 million in 2020 to undertake a range of studies to inform the public health and clinical responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

History tells us that new infectious diseases will continue to emerge, but we cannot predict when, where or how. The purpose of this significant NHMRC grant was to establish national capability to respond rapidly when such threats emerge by undertaking the research needed to inform the public health response during the outbreak.

APPRISE is a Centre of Research Excellence undertaking research and producing evidence to inform Australia’s capacity to prepare, respond and recover from infectious disease outbreaks. It is a partnership of 13 organisations, including 8 universities.

On 13 January 2020, APPRISE initiated its response to COVID-19 by activating SETREP-ID, a pre-planned research platform to rapidly identify and investigate an emerging disease threat. Twelve days later, Australia’s first COVID-19 case was reported. On 29 January 2020, scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity reported that they had successfully grown the virus from a patient sample, the first successful attempt outside China. The virus was quickly supplied to Australian public health laboratories to make sure that their tests worked and to trusted research laboratories, kick-starting investigation into the biology of the virus.

Six months on, it is clear that APPRISE has played a critical role in Australia’s COVID-19 response so far, including leading research on:

  • better tests for surveillance and point-of-care testing, monitoring how the virus is changing, and understanding how it causes serious lung disease
  • potential treatments using a novel and innovative adaptive trial design (REMAP-CAP)
  • protection of First Nations communities and healthcare workers, and studying how the virus spreads in aged care facilities
  • understanding some of the key clinical, epidemiological and virological characteristics of the first confirmed cases and their household contacts to inform public health policy (the ‘First Few X’ research project)
  • serosurveys to assess population immunity
  • COVID-19 in general practice
  • the social and ethical issues arising from quarantine, self-isolation and communication in a pandemic.

During the 2009 influenza pandemic, researchers and NHMRC had to scramble to initiate, fund, and secure ethics approval for urgent projects.

This year, we saw the value of research preparedness and the ability of a trusted network such as APPRISE to attract additional funds. With the support of NHMRC, the Medical Research Future Fund, philanthropy (including the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Snow Medical Research Foundation) and other funders, APPRISE and its network of collaborators quickly activated and scaled up critical research on COVID-19.

Read more about how we have prepared: Twenty years of preparation.