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How COVID-19 highlighted the importance of research

29 April 2022
Understanding how the pandemic has reshaped research
For Professor Tania Sorrell AM, one moment of inspiration can lead to better outcomes for billions of people worldwide.
Professor Tania Sorrell AM

Professor Tania Sorrell AM

As the University’s Professor of Clinical Infectious Diseases, Professor Tania Sorrell AM has certainly had a challenging year.

While Professor Sorrell has worked for many years on infectious diseases as Director of the Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases (formally known as Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity), the impact of COVID-19 has brought her work squarely into the public spotlight.

High-quality research and open channels of communication with policymakers have been fundamental for the NSW response to COVID-19. Professor Sorrell and her team at Westmead Hospital produced a new diagnostic test specific to the disease within two weeks of seeing their first case. Her team were also able to sequence the entire length of the virus, which has driven a significant amount of the response across the State.

I very much have wanted, from the time of my appointment, to build up infectious diseases and potentially leave it as a legacy of excellent research and education and student support within the University of Sydney.
Professor Sorrell
Scientific researcher

Professor Sorrell says Australia is uniquely positioned as a global leader in medical research. She says that we can strongly contribute to the fight against serious infectious diseases like COVID-19 in the future, but the key is continued funding of vital research.

That is one of the reasons Professor Sorrell has generously decided to create a legacy beyond her working lifetime. She will be leaving a significant portion of her estate towards research into, and prevention of, infectious diseases.

"I very much have wanted, from the time of my appointment, to build up infectious diseases and potentially leave it as a legacy of excellent research and education and student support within the University of Sydney," said Professor Sorrell.

Professor Sorrell says she also wants to support early career researchers. New researchers often struggle to turn promising starts into fully-fledged careers with a long-term impact in their disciplines, due to funding shortages.

“I think we’re all aware that government is funding medical research to a lesser extent than it used to. That’s why philanthropic funding is becoming a really important mechanism by which emerging young researchers can be assisted in achieving their aims.”

A better world is one without COVID-19, or other infectious diseases – and it is one which Professor Sorrell is working hard to create, now and well into the future.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have donors contribute in the past,” she says. “We’re just giving back to those who’ve given so much – that’s very much part of the ethos.”

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