Male scientist in a laboratory with images of virus

Fighting COVID-19 together

Our researchers have a proud history of rising to meet the needs of our community. Our approach to this disease, which threatens the lives of people in Australia and around the world, is no different.

We’re collaborating with medical research institutes, universities, hospitals and industry, with the united goal of developing new diagnostics, improving healthcare and finding a cure.

Leveraging our longstanding expertise in infectious diseases, immunology and drug discovery, our team is focusing on developing much-needed treatments and rapid diagnostic tools for COVID-19 and for potential future pandemic viruses.


How is WEHI tackling COVID-19?

Marc Pellegrini in a laboratory
Infectious disease researcher and clinician
Professor Marc Pellegrini is leading
our COVID-19 research

  • COVID PROFILE - A study of immunity to COVID-19
    People who have recovered from COVID-19, and their close contacts, could hold the key to understanding how immunity to the disease develops, how long it lasts and what happens when immunity is lost. Understanding immunity to COVID-19 is vital for developing vaccination strategies. It will also help us better manage this virus in the community and allow us to adjust to a COVID normal way of operating.  
  • COVID SHIELD - clinical trial of a drug to prevent COVID-19 in high risk health care workers
    In collaboration with major hospitals around Victoria and across several States, the trial invited doctors, nurses and other health workers who are at risk of COVID-19 infection to participate.

    Evidence is emerging that the drug hydroxychloroquine, used for more than 70 years to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus, may protect people against COVID-19, but we need to test this more.

  • Developing new rapid diagnostic tools for identifying COVID-19 and other infections
    Our researchers are working to develop faster tests for infectious diseases including COVID-19, so that people can be diagnosed on-the-spot within minutes, not hours – even in people with no symptoms. The diagnostic tools may be suitable for rapid screening of people at hospitals, general practice clinics or airports. Infected people could be identified, isolated and treated immediately, preventing further disease spread. They could also increase the ability to perform high volumes of tests, without the need for reagents that are in short supply for current diagnostic tests.
  • Discovering new medicines against coronaviruses using the National Drug Discovery Centre 
    The National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC) is a collaborative facility funded by donors, WEHI and the Victorian and Australian governments. The NDDC enables researchers from across Australia to accelerate the discovery and development of new medicines. We will use the high-throughput screening facility and expertise at the NDDC to accelerate the development of new medicines for COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.
  • Antivirals targeting the machines of coronaviruses
    Upon coronavirus infection, the virus produces its own machinery in our cells to survive and thrive. Stopping these viral machines with a drug would kill the virus and curb infection. Our researchers are engaged in drug discovery campaigns to discover new drug-like compounds to inhibit viral machines directly. Focussing on two coronavirus proteins named PLpro and Mpro, they have screened hundreds-of-thousands of compounds since 2020 to identify new drugs for COVID-19. Such medicines would treat but also prevent COVID-19, and would be complementary to vaccines. Drugs against PLpro and Mpro exploit a distinct vulnerability of the virus, and would work for viral variants escaping from vaccine protection. PLpro and Mpro are present in all coronaviruses, and drugs would likely be useful for potential future coronavirus pandemics.
  • Assessing potential antiviral medicines for activity against coronavirus
    Using our infectious diseases research facilities, we are testing vast libraries of potential medicines for their actions against COVID-19. These libraries could also hold the key to treating future coronavirus outbreaks.
  • Developing 'biologics' medicines for coronavirus infections
    ‘Biologics’ medicines mimic antibodies – proteins produced by immune cells – to fight infection and are already in clinical use for diseases such as cancer and autoimmune conditions. We will harness our infectious disease research capabilities and collaborate with other organisations to identify antibodies that can block coronavirus infection. These can be rapidly engineered to become suitable for clinical testing as a COVID-19 therapy. The antibody screens will also provide vital research tools for better understanding the biology of the virus causing COVID-19, an important step towards effectively fighting it and other coronaviruses of future global concern.
  • Identifying risk factors for developing serious COVID-19 complications
    Excessive inflammation in the lungs is a serious and potentially deadly complication in people with COVID-19. Our computational biology researchers are collaborating with scientists at QUT, the University of Queensland and Hospital Marcelino Champagnat in Curitiba, Brazil, to discover 'genetic signatures' of people who develop severe COVID-19. This research has the potential to identify people who are at highest risk from COVID-19, and have the greatest need of healthcare interventions to prevent and treat this disease. It may also identify key molecules that are involved in severe COVID-19, potentially leading to new therapeutic targets.

Join our fight against COVID-19 

It’s thanks to your generosity that we are already undertaking research into COVID-19, as well as future coronaviruses. 

Your donation will help researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute to find the answers that are desperately needed to combat coronaviruses like COVID-19.

Should you be interested in making a major gift to the Institute’s COVID-19 related research, or another area of our research, and wish to have a conversation with someone in the Fundraising and Philanthropy Team, please call +61 3 9345 2403 or email

Together, we can fight COVID-19 and other viruses that threaten our community, and better prepare and arm ourselves for the future.

Online donation is not available to donors outside of Australia and New Zealand. Please consider these other ways to support our research.



Other ways to donate

  • Download our donation form
  • Donate over the phone: +61 3 9345 2403
  • Post a cheque made out to ‘The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’. Reply Paid 84760 (no stamp required), Parkville, VIC 3052
  • If you would like to make a donation via bank transfer, please call our Fundraising team on (03) 9345 2403 or email us at
  • US supporters can donate via the Chapel & York US Foundation, nominating The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research as a recipient

Thank you for your support. We would like to keep in touch by sending you our quarterly newsletter, event invitations and fundraising appeals. If you would like to change these communication preferences, please call Bay Ang on (03) 9345 2403 or email

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Visualisation of SARS-CoV-2

Our researchers are working towards better approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of coronaviruses, both to address the current COVID-19 global outbreak as well as in preparedness for likely future coronaviral disease outbreaks.