Damian Honeyman

2023 David Cooper Scholarship awarded to Damian Honeyman for early pandemic detection research

News | Published on 21 Aug 2023

The Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney has awarded the second David Cooper Scholarship to Damian Honeyman, an ICU nurse at NSW Health and PhD candidate within the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute. Thanks to generous donations made in memory of the Kirby Institute’s inaugural director, the late Professor David Cooper AC, this 4-year PhD scholarship has been established to carry forward David’s vision of equitable access to health and his passion for knowledge exchange to train the next generation of researchers and clinicians.

Mr Honeyman’s clinical background spans nursing in intensive care units to communicable disease control in public health units across Sydney. His research focuses on biosecurity in the changing biotechnology landscape.

Mr Honeyman’s PhD research will investigate how early warning systems driven by artificial intelligence (AI) can prevent high-risk biothreats, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive events (CBRNE), from developing into serious epidemics. This research will aim to address the gap in early warning systems and threat detection of CBRNE events for Australia and build upon the Balvi Filantropic Fund’s goals to get epidemic intelligence into low-and-middle-income-countries. Early warning systems are instrumental in providing signals to communicate crucial information to key stakeholders about impending risks to society of natural disasters and other hazardous events such as chemical spills. Mr Honeyman’s research aims to meet the growing concern of biothreats, which can pose a risk to national security and public health.

Under the supervision of Professor Raina MacIntyre, Associate Professor David Heslop and Associate Professor Deepti Gurdasani, Mr Honeyman’s research will build upon EPIWATCH, an AI-driven outbreak early-detection and monitoring system, proven to provide early signals of epidemics using open-source intelligence. This work aims to inform the Australian Government and key stakeholders to influence policy and build capacity for early warning systems to combat high-risk infectious diseases and biothreats from entering Australia.

“I am delighted to be awarding the 2023 David Cooper Scholarship to Damian and his important research,” says Kirby Institute Director, Scientia Professor Anthony Kelleher. “The COVID-19 pandemic, and the threat of mpox these past years has taught us that the next infectious disease threat could emerge quickly and have devastating impacts across the world. Equitable access to health and disease prevention remains a global challenge, but if we are able to stay ahead of these threats, better and more equitable outcomes may be possible.”

"Having studied several Masters degrees at UNSW, it is an honour to be awarded the second David Cooper Scholarship to complete my PhD within the Biosecurity Program,” says Mr Honeyman. “Upon receiving this scholarship, I pay tribute to David Cooper, a visionary leader who worked tirelessly in his pursuit of infectious disease research to improve the global community. I look forward to conducting my research under the supervision of world-leading researchers and hope to contribute to the Kirby Institute and David Cooper’s legacy of impactful research, improving access to health for all.”