Remembering PLuS Alliance Fellow of Global Health, Professor David Cooper

Friday, March 23, 2018

Photo credit: UNSW Sydney 

One of the first PLuS Alliance Fellows for Global Health and esteemed Director of UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute, Professor David Cooper, sadly passed away Sunday March 18 following a short illness.

David was a pioneer in global HIV and infectious diseases research and was awarded the title of Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (OA) for his contributions to the development of new treatment approaches. As one of the first responders to the HIV pandemic in Australia, his research in the 1980s resulted in the first description of the seroconversion illness that accompanies initial HIV infection and his tireless work over more than three decades has saved countless lives, in his home country and around the world.

A fervent advocate for health as a basic human right for all, David devoted significant efforts to improving access to treatment in countries that had previously been overlooked. During the 1990s, he worked closely with the local community in Thailand and colleagues from the Netherlands to set up HIV-NAT, a research centre in Bangkok dedicated to developing new treatments for HIV in Asia. He was also more recently developing research capacity in Indonesia and Myanmar.

As the Kirby Institute’s inaugural Director, David led its growth from a small staff to a globally-recognised team of 300, all committed to furthering research and innovation in HIV and other infectious diseases.

In a statement released by the Kirby Institute, The Hon. Michael Kirby and friend of David said:

“David’s special gift was having both a huge intellect and a huge heart. It was his intellect that made him a leader in the global response to the AIDS epidemic and led to the building of the Kirby Institute. But it was his great heart that all who knew him, his family, his colleagues and his patients, could witness every day. He was first a clinician, and that made him a great scientist.”

David’s contributions to the PLuS Alliance community were significant, encouraging cross-border collaboration on the issues of global health and social justice with colleagues and students from both King’s College London and Arizona State University (ASU). During his time with the PLuS Alliance, David visited academics at King’s College London involved in HIV research and had arranged with Dr Frank Post to co-supervise an Australian PhD candidate working at the Africa Health Research Institute in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He was also engaged with the Cicely Saunders International Group regarding HIV palliative care in Africa and, along with other UNSW colleagues, was continuing work with Dr Matthew Scotch at ASU on phylogenetic research in HIV.

While David will be hugely missed amongst the PLuS Alliance community, we will continue to recognise and reflect on his exceptional lifetime of groundbreaking achievements and globally-collaborative research.

The Kirby Institute will be arranging a number of occasions to remember David in the coming weeks and further details will be shared once confirmed.

If you would like to share any thoughts, memories, and stories about David, to be passed on to his family, please contact Luci Bamford, Media and Communications Manager at the Kirby Institute at lbamford@kirby.unsw.edu.au.