About the Kirby Institute

Patron: the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

Backgroundimage - About The Kirby Institute

The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society was formed on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR). Named for former High Court judge Michael Kirby AC (see below), the Kirby Institute now fulfils a much broader role than was first imagined in 1986 when the three National Centres in HIV research were formed in response to the then-emerging and little understood HIV pandemic. NCHECR collaborated extensively in the international effort that ensured that HIV became one of the most intensively studied diseases in the history of medical science. Over time, the skills, techniques and expertise developed in the study of HIV was applied to a range of other infectious diseases, notably viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections. The new name of the Kirby Institute takes in this broader scope and, reflecting Mr Kirby’s lifelong interest in health and human rights, also reflects the diverse and often disadvantaged communities which form the client groups of our study.

The Kirby Institute is directly affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales, and receives funding through the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. The Kirby Institute’s primary functions relate to the co-ordination of national surveillance programs, population health and epidemiological research, clinical research and clinical trials. The Kirby Institute’s research program has increasingly taken on a regional focus, with major collaborative programs in Thailand and Cambodia. Other functions of the Kirby Institute include the training of health professionals, and input into the development and implementation of health policy and programs.

The Kirby Institute carries out its functions by working with an extensive range of collaborators, including the other national HIV research centres, State and Territory Health Departments, public and private clinical units, national and international organisations, and the corporate sector including the pharmaceutical industry.

The Director is supported in the overall management of the Kirby Institute by the Executive Committee. Executive Committee members are the Heads of the Therapeutic and Vaccine Research Program and the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program, and the Institute's Operations Manager.


The Kirby Institute conducts its research through eleven research programs and groups:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program
  • Biostatistics and Databases Program
  • HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program
  • Immunovirology and Pathogenesis Program
  • Justice Health Research Program
  • Public Health Interventions Research Group
  • Sexual Health Program
  • Surveillance and Evaluation Program for Public Health
  • Therapeutic and Vaccine Research Program
  • Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program
  • Viral Hepatitis Epidemiology and Prevention Program


Professor David A. Cooper AO FAA was the inaugural director of NCHECR and continues as director of the Kirby Institute. Professor Cooper’s long association with HIV research and treatment spans nearly three decades. This involvement has been broad-ranging, covering basic, clinical and epidemiological research as well as membership on advisory groups to establish treatment guidelines for developed and developing countries. Over the course of his career and clinical research work, he has been involved with all 22 currently available antiretroviral drugs, a substantial contribution to the field of ART and the profound impact it has had on the course of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. He has been a global advocate for regional engagement and skills transfer for many years, particularly through clinical research, as the primary influence on best practice. In 1996 Professor Cooper and colleagues started HIV-NAT, a partnership between the Kirby Institute, IATEC (our sister organisation in the Netherlands), and the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre based at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Hospital campus.


The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG http://www.michaelkirby.com.au/
When he retired from the High Court of Australia on 2 February 2009, Michael Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge. He was first appointed in 1975 to the Australian Conciliation & Arbitration Commission and later seconded as inaugural Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission (1975-84). He was appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal and, concurrently, the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands. His appointment to the High Court came in 1996 and he served thirteen years.

Mr Kirby has served on many national and international bodies, including as a member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Commission on AIDS (1988-92); President of the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva (1995-8); as UN Special Representative Human Rights in Cambodia (1993-6); a member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (1995-2005); a member of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Judicial Reference Group (2007-) and a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights (2004-). He is presently a member of the Eminent Persons Group which is investigating the future of the Commonwealth of Nations and has been appointed to the UNDP Global Commission of HIV and the Law.

Mr. Kirby is the Patron of the Kirby Institute.


Mission Statement

The mission of the Kirby Institute is to lead the research effort against blood-borne viruses and related infections in Australia and in our region.

This research will draw from many disciplines to develop outcomes that bolster prevention efforts, provide improved treatments and build regional capacity against infections that occur in every community.