A virology laboratory was established at Fairfield Hospital in 1950 to undertake clinical, diagnostic and research services for the many patients with viral infections. Under the guidance of Dr Alan Ferris (1950–1970) and Professor Ian Gust (1970–1990), Fairfield gained a world wide reputation for education, research and treatment. The laboratory was the first to isolate hepatitis A virus and one of the first strains of respiratory syncytial virus (the A2 strain, now a reference A group virus).
With the emergence of the HIV virus in Australia in the early 1980s, Fairfield Hospital and its virology laboratory became one of the primary centre's for patient care, diagnostic services, public health reference and research into AIDS in Australia. During this period it was suggested that the virology research functions should be transferred to a more independently managed research centre within Fairfield Hospital.
In 1983, Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet became the founding patron of the new research centre. Macfarlane Burnet, a Nobel Laureate had been appointed Honorary Consultant Epidemiologist at Fairfield Hospital in 1946, a position he held until his death in 1985. Following his death, Professor Gust and the Burnet family agreed that the virology research centre should be named the Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research (later changed to the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health), in honour of Sir Frank.
The Burnet Institute continued to operate on the grounds of Fairfield Hospital up until the hospital's closure.
Read more about this topic: Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital
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