Research update: Marie Bashir Institute

31 October 2019
Tackling infection around the globe
In the seven years since the inception of the Marie Bashir Institute, a significant amount of multidisciplinary research has taken place across the Asia-Pacific region to advance our understanding of infectious diseases.

The Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity (MBI) was first conceptualised by the then Dean of Medicine, Professor Bruce Robinson AM, while he was travelling through Indonesia in 2009.

“Witnessing a bird flu outbreak firsthand, he realised that collaboration would be required from many disciplines to control the rapid spread of infectious diseases like influenza,” explains Professor Tania Sorrell AM, MBI Co-Director and Professor of Clinical Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney. 

On his return to Australia, Professor Robinson coordinated a meeting of 30+ staff from various faculties to establish an infectious disease and biosecurity network led by Professor Sorrell. The network would later be known as the Marie Bashir Institute, named after the Hon. Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, former Governor of New South Wales, Chancellor of the University, and a psychiatrist committed to helping the marginalised.

MBI’s objectives and vision have remained consistent since the network’s establishment. “Our goal is to reduce the health and socioeconomic consequences of emerging infectious diseases, particularly in the Asia- Pacific region,” says Professor Sorrell. 

“We hope to achieve this through research, education, capacity-building and advocacy work with government and professional societies, and through communication with the public. Essentially we want to answer questions surrounding the control and containment of infections and antimicrobial resistance.”

MBI is a virtual institute operating across three main campuses – Camperdown, Westmead and Camden. The internal framework was developed around research themes (or nodes) involving at least three disciplines or schools, to promote multidisciplinary collaborations. 

The institute has now grown to 160 members, many of whom are established research leaders who have obtained grants to pursue projects with international collaborators all over the world.

“We’ve been extraordinarily successful,” says Professor Sorrell. “Our return on investment is one of the highest at the University – we attract more than $10 million in multidisciplinary competitive research funding as well as other major funds, each year. We’ve facilitated the recruitment of some high-level academics to the University. We have also previously offered the Master of Health Security degree, and have run a number of workshops in partnership with the World Health Organization relating to emerging diseases.” 

Professor Sorrell is internationally renowned for her research on cryptococcus and other fungal infections. She has made major contributions towards our understanding of fungal diseases and continues to take part in much of the key research that happens at the Marie Bashir Institute.

Coloured map featuring Australasia/pacific highlighting current MBI research projects

Current MBI research projects



Professor Mikhail Prokopenko
Complex modelling to predict outbreaks of foodborne infection like salmonella.

Dr Philip Britton
Discovering the infectious causes of unknown encephalitis cases using genomic approaches.

Professor Tania Sorrell
Improving health outcomes in the tropical north.

Associate Professor Tess Lea
Housing for health: fixing infrastructure and housing policy in Indigenous Australia and beyond.

Australia - general

Professor Tania Sorrell, Professor Vitali Sintchenko, et al.
Protecting the public from emerging infectious diseases.

Professor Tania Sorrell, Professor Angus Dawson, Professor Lyn Gilbert
An Australian partnership for preparedness research on infectious disease emergencies.

Professor Sarah Palmer
Addressing the major challenges in HIV vaccine and cure research.

Professor Vitali Sintchenkco
Post-genomic surveillance for communicable disease control.
Genomics dissection and prevention of bacterial transmission events.

Professor Edward Holmes
Redefining virus ecology and evolution. Using metagenomics to determine the causative agent(s) of tick-borne disease in Australia.

Professor Jonathan Iredell
Tackling antimicrobial resistance as a public health problem using non-antibiotic approaches. High‑throughput technology targeting antimicrobial resistance in animals.



Professor Edward Holmes
Investigating viruses and the use of metagenomics for identification of respiratory infections.



Dr Michael Walsh
The elephant livestock interface in forest fringe areas to the risk of anthrax outbreaks in India.

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott
International health regulation compliance in India: the politics of global health security.



Professor Merrilyn Walton
Piloting an empowerment program for cocoa farmers in West Sulawesi.

New Zealand


Professor Merrilyn Walton
A One Health collaboration investigating animal and human health interfaces.



Associate Professor Greg Fox, Professor Ben Marais
Prevention of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in a high prevalence setting in Vietnam.

Associate Professor Greg Fox, Professor Joel Negin et al.
Combating the emergence and spread of antimicrobial-resistant infectious diseases in Vietnam.

Associate Professor Greg Fox, Professor Joel Negin
An integrated health sector strategy to combat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma in Vietnam.

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott
Civil and military connections to health outbreak responses in resource-poor settings, particularly in the lower Mekong Delta region.

Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea


Professor David Guest, Professor Merrilyn Walton
Sustainability and profitability of cocoa-based farming systems on Bougainville Island and Indonesia.



Professor Joel Negin, Dr Aaron Jenkins, Professor Ben Marais
Securing health in Fiji through strengthened health systems and integrated water management to tackle the three plagues: typhoid, dengue and leptospirosis.