The National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the launch today of its new name and identity - the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society - while welcoming a $10 million donation from US-based charity The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The Kirby Institute has been named in honour of former Justice of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby, a passionate champion of health and human rights.

Michael Kirby has been a long-time friend and mentor to the University of New South Wales-based centre since its inception. He is the guest of honour at a ceremony on Monday 4 April to mark the centre's name change and its quarter century of achievements.

"We are greatly honoured that Michael Kirby agreed to lend his name and his standing to our ongoing work," the Director of the Kirby Institute, Professor David Cooper, said. "The name change is designed to convey the breadth of our work which, these days, is far greater than just HIV."

NCHECR was established in 1986 to focus on HIV research and prevention. Today, the Kirby Institute's 160 researchers work on a range of blood-borne diseases including HIV, viral hepatitis and other diseases of behaviour, as well as diseases affecting specific communities such as Indigenous people, prisoners, sex workers and injecting drug users.

"We research a range of infectious diseases, particularly those that occur in social groups that might be considered marginalised, disadvantaged, disempowered or voiceless. This is where our interests and those of Mr Kirby intersect," Professor Cooper said.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer said: "Professor Cooper and his team are recognised internationally as leaders in the field of HIV research and the wider area of blood-borne infections. The renaming of the national centre as the Kirby Institute and the significant investment by The Atlantic Philanthropies mark another important step in the centre's evolution."

The Atlantic Philanthropies' $10m donation will go toward new $80m facilities for the Kirby Institute on UNSW's Kensington campus and a clinical centre in Darlinghurst. Initial funding for the facilities has been provided by the Federal and State Governments ($20m from each), with $20m coming from University resources.

UNSW Chancellor David Gonski said a further $10m needed to be raised to match the Atlantic Philanthropies' donation and the shortfall was a "call to arms" to philanthropists.

"We are deeply appreciative of the investment by The Atlantic Philanthropies in this important area of research at UNSW and we will be working hard to match this donation from other sources over the coming three years. We value highly The Atlantic Philanthropies Founder Mr Charles Feeney's financial commitment and leadership in assisting us to achieve the financing for this project," he said.

The donation is the latest in a series of international philanthropic gifts to the Institute. In 2009, the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research received AUD$18m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to support a research project with the potential to extend drug therapy to millions of HIV-affected people worldwide.

What: The Kirby Institute: 25 year celebration and name launchWhen: 6.30 pm, Monday 4 April, 2011Where: John Niland Scientia Building, Kensington campus, UNSW.

Media contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media, 02 9385 8107