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Corporate entry University Department of Experimental Medicine (1944 - 1951)

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Medical Research


In December 1944 WEHI Director F. M. Burnet was appointed Research Professor of Experimental Medicine in the University of Melbourne. He established a corresponding department within the Hall Institute, which he named the University Department of Experimental Medicine (Epidemiology). This Department included all staff working under Dr Burnet so included the Virus and Bio-Chemical Departments from 1944-1951/52. In 1960/61 the Experimental Medicine Department evolved into the Virus Epidemiology Unit within the Institute's Virus Department. Within a year the Unit lost its separate identity and became a University supported epidemiology unit within the Institute's Experimental Department. Until 1963 it was operated and funded by Francis Haley Bequest funds and the National Health and Medical Research Council.


The University Department of Experimental Medicine was concerned primarily with the epidemiological aspects of infectious disease. The Virology Department, within the University Department, continued its examination of respiratory and influenza infections in military personnel during 1944. From 1944/45 its attention turned to the problem of large-scale production of influenza virus vaccine. A pilot plant for the production of influenza vaccine was established at the Institute, followed by a full-scale plant at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The Department was also interested in the effect of iodine as a killer of influenza virus, continued to work on herpes simplex diagnosis, and added research on mumps in 1946.

In 1951 the work of the Virology Department turned mainly toward an investigation of an outbreak of virus encephalitis along the Murray River. An apparent correlation of myxomatosis in rabbits and cases of encephalitis in humans caused public alarm over a connection, but this belief was authoritatively excluded by the Department's isolation of encephalitis virus.

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Emily Geraghty