Spotlight on ‘beautiful but deadly’ diseases


An artist's impression of the CSIRO light installation.
An artist's impression of the CSIRO light installation.

Visitors to Vivid Sydney 2018 will be able to catch a glimpse of the beauty and danger of viruses and bacteria as they are expanded up to a billion times in size with the help of CSIRO

Vivid Sydney is a 23-day festival of light, music and ideas that will run from 25 May to 16 June 2018. 

Each year it draws visitors, lighting artists, designers and manufacturers from around Australia and the world.

This year, light projections of infectious biological agents that most affect human health including Ebola, Zika and influenza will be beamed at spectacular scale onto buildings in The Rocks, Sydney.

Animating viruses and studying them up close is just one way in which scientists are working to understand them, with a view to developing treatments or preventative vaccines.

“We want visitors to Vivid Sydney to be wowed by the visual beauty of coming face-to-face with some of the world’s most deadly viruses and diseases and be reassured that Australian scientists are playing a leading international role in their prevention, detection and treatment,” says CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Director Rob Grenfell.

“At CSIRO, our purpose is to solve Australia’s greatest challenges through science. By working with partners like the Garvan Institute and other research organisations, we are working to predict where disease outbreaks might occur, detect their presence and genetic mutations more quickly, and treat them more effectively.

“Some of the world’s most important science happens in secure laboratory environments, so it’s a rare opportunity for us to be able to provide the Australian public with a glimpse into the science that affects all our lives.”

CSIRO manages a high-containment facility so advanced, there are only a few others similar in the world. It is designed to allow scientific research into the most dangerous infectious agents in the world.

CSIRO scientists have also been integral in researching the pathogenicity, or disease causing ability, of different Ebola virus strains. In 2012, CSIRO developed the world’s first vaccine to combat the deadly Hendra virus.

The vaccine specifically targeting horses was crucial to breaking the cycle of Hendra virus transmission from animals to people.

As most viruses are transmitted from animals to humans, CSIRO scientists are also studying mosquitoes and other insects that carry and transmit disease causing viruses.

This will help improve our knowledge of the viruses they carry, how they develop immunity against them and how to best prevent or manage these animal and human health threats.

CSIRO is participating in Vivid Sydney with the light display as well a range of Vivid Ideas events including:

  • Meet the Defenders: protecting us from a deadly outbreak on Monday 28 May 2018 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
  • Moonshot or myth: Can Australia be the healthiest country in the world? on Friday 8 Jun 2018 from 8:00 am to 10:00 am at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Sydney
  • Bridging Science, Art and Design (VIZBI Showcase) on Friday 1 June from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
  • Data visualisation masterclass on Thursday 31 May 2018 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from Sydney University of Technology, Ultimo

Vivid Sydney is the largest festival of its kind in the world and now the largest event in Australia.

In 2017 Vivid Sydney attracted a record 2.33 million attendees.

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