Professor David Cooper AC, standing on balcony. Credit: Kirby Institute/Bec Lewis.

Inaugural director

Scientia Professor David Cooper AC was the inaugural director of the Kirby Institute at its foundation in 1986, and passed away on Sunday 18 March 2018.

David had been working as an immunologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, having returned from a stint in the USA where he first encountered what was not yet known as HIV, predominantly in gay men. He, along with colleagues at St Vincent’s, diagnosed the first cases of HIV in Australia in the early 1980s. David was determined to learn how the virus behaved, and ultimately find a treatment and cure.

As a clinician and researcher, David established strong connections with the communities affected by HIV, initially gay men, and established Australia’s first cohort study in 1983 to learn more about the virus.  In 1986, David was appointed the founding director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR); the research centre established and funded by the Australian Government in response to the emergence of HIV/AIDS in Australia. Under David’s leadership, NCHECR, now the Kirby Institute, has grown into an internationally recognised infectious disease research institute.

During his directorship of the Kirby Institute, he was named chair of the World Health Organization Global Program on AIDS Committee on Clinical Research and Drug Development (1992), President of the International AIDS Society (1994–1998) and served on numerous academic and advisory boards, both in Australia and globally.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, David led the expansion of the Kirby Institute, broadening our research to incorporate viral hepatitis, STIs, and other infections. In 2014, he led the institute's relocation to the UNSW Sydney campus in Kensington, NSW, where we continue our work in public health, clinical science, epidemiology, and laboratory science.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2003 for “service to medicine as a clinician, researcher and leading contributor in the field of HIV/AIDS research”, and posthumously appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2018 for “eminent service to medicine, particularly in HIV/AIDS research, as a clinician, scientist and administrator, to the development of therapies and to health programs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific”.

David Cooper was a dedicated and compassionate doctor to many HIV patients, and those with other immunological conditions, throughout his lifetime. The Kirby Institute is his legacy, which we continue with pride.

If you wish to donate to the David Cooper Memorial Fund, click here.