CSIRO to cut research into infectious disease and biosecurity

Government cuts to science are set to hit CSIRO’s ground-breaking research into infectious disease with up to eight researchers at Geelong’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) set to lose their jobs.

CSIRO scientists at the laboratory recently began research into the deadly Ebola virus, currently the subject of a deadly outbreak throughout parts of West Africa.

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The high-containment facility is home to important research that is critical to protecting Australia from Avian Influenza, SARS and the Hendra virus.

“These latest cuts to CSIRO are particularly illogical and short-sighted.” said CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski.

“AAHL has a world-class reputation for research into zoonotic diseases ; viruses that can be passed from animals to humans. This is terrible news for hardworking researchers who are dedicated to keeping Australians – indeed the world’s population – safe from illness.” Mr Popovski said.

Cuts will hit front-line science 

In a letter to the CSIRO Staff Association, management have confirmed that Government budget cuts and falling external revenues will lead to ‘a planned reduction in microbiology and virology expertise,’ resulting in up to eight researchers losing their jobs

‘The planned reduction in the Combating Emerging Infectious Diseases program, located at AAHL, with the majority of potentially impacted positions located in the Microbial Products team which will cease work as well as reductions in the Virology team,’ the management advice states.

The cuts to the program come just as CSIRO begins to research Ebola in earnest and less than a year since AAHL securely obtained a live sample of the virus currently sweeping through West Africa.

More jobs to go from health and medical research

In a separate response to Government cuts, CSIRO management have revealed plans to stop work in other areas of health and medical research.

Research into bowel or colorectal cancer – the second largest cause of cancer deaths in Australia – will cease completely. CSIRO work in the neurosciences – including critical research into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases set to beset the growing numbers of Australia’s ageing population – will be shut down entirely.

CSIRO management estimate that more than 40 full time equivalent staff would be made redundant across both research areas to be closed.

Mr Popovski said that the Staff Association will pursue the concerns of CSIRO researchers in meetings with federal politicians in Canberra next month, ahead of a Senate Inquiry into the state of Australia’s innovation, science and research system.

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