UNSW's national HIV clinical research centre has celebrated its 25th anniversary with the launch of a new name and identity - the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society - while welcoming a $10 million donation from Mr Chuck Feeney, founder of the US-based charity The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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

A long-time friend and mentor to the UNSW-based centre since its inception, Michael Kirby was the guest of honour at a celebration at the John Niland Scientia Building to mark the centre's name change and its quarter century of achievements.

More than 300 people, including The Atlantic Philanthropies founder Chuck Feeney, former federal health minister Dr Neal Blewett, UNSW Chancellor David Gonski and Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer, were on hand to mark the milestone and to celebrate the centre's new incarnation.

"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."

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."

One of two national HIV research centres based at UNSW, the National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) was established in 1986 at federal government level in response to the emerging HIV pandemic. 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.

"Michael's well known and enduring support for health and human rights, both at home and internationally, fits perfectly with our research focus on those vulnerable communities who make up our patient and client populations, the often disadvantaged groups most likely to suffer the infectious diseases which are the core of our work," Professor Cooper said.

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.

Professor Cooper thanked Mr Feeney for his generous support saying the US-based philanthropist's style of giving could only be described as "muscular" and with a "remarkable track record of leveraging matching funds from government and other sources".

"Mr Feeney understands that major health threats to the social fabric need a major response and we thank him for his leadership in this field."

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," he said.

"We value highly Mr Feeney's financial commitment and leadership in assisting us to achieve the financing for this project."

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