Sector News
20 March 2018

Today, the staff and Board of ASHM add their voices to the torrent of messages of condolence and appreciation from around the world to one Australia’s most distinguished clinicians, researchers and leaders, Scientia Professor David Cooper, AO who passed away on Sunday 18 March after a short illness.

“David’s importance and lifelong dedication as a clinician scientist was incredible: he is renowned globally as a leading immunologist – indeed one of the first responders to recognise that HIV had reached Australia in the mid-1980s,” ASHM President A/Prof Dr Mark Bloch said.

 “Internationally he is respected as a leader, and to his hundreds of colleagues intimately known as a compassionate mentor and friend – especially to all those who have worked alongside him and his team at the Kirby Institute over the last three decades. David was instrumental in the formation and his support to ASHM in the early days of clinicians, researchers and the community coming together to figure out how best to respond to a rapidly evolving and devastating epidemic.”

ASHM Honorary Life Member and former president Dr Martyn French, added his remembrance:

“I have known David since the late 1980s when Perth took part in the initial Australian trials of Zidovudine led by David and his associates in Sydney. Since then and through my involvement in numerous clinical trials and research studies and membership of many national committees, I had the opportunity to observe how he worked, over almost 30 years.  David always impressed me by his exceptional abilities as a leader and particularly by his inclusivity. The inclusion of centres throughout Australia in clinical trials and research studies led by David and colleagues ensured that patients in Western Australia and other parts of Australia benefitted from the latest developments in treatment. That inclusivity also ensured that people from all over Australia, including myself, contributed to the development of national policy and clinical studies.”

“Most of us in Australia who have been involved in HIV research and clinical trials have had our activities facilitated by David in one way or another at some time in our careers. He therefore played a unique role in not only improving the treatment of people with HIV infection but also in the professional development of healthcare providers and researchers throughout Australia over more than 30 years.”

As a former President of the International AIDS Society, Professor Cooper’s reach was global – where he advocated for the need for heavily HIV-impacted countries to conduct their own research, just as Australia had done so effectively from the start. In 1996, Professor Cooper, along with colleagues from the Netherlands and Thailand, established a research centre in Bangkok, called HIV-NAT, with the ambition to be the focal point for developing new treatments for Asian countries facing increasing HIV rates. We recall Professor Cooper’s compelling presentation in the 2006 Australasian HIV&AIDs Conference pressing this subject in his keynote presentation.

ASHM sends our heartfelt condolences to David’s family, friends and to all those who have worked alongside him and his team over the last three decades.  Without doubt an enormous loss to us all and it bears repeating, yet another giant in our sector gone too soon.