Pandemics Past, Present, Future

Friday 20 August 6 - 7pm

Plagues and epidemics have ravaged humanity throughout its existence, often changing the course of history. Today, the tools and methods we have to control pandemics are in a race against the emergence of new disease.

For the 2021 Sydney Science Festival, Powerhouse Museum is partnering with the City of Parramatta to present Pandemics: Past, Present and Future, a panel discussion moderated by the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan

Against the backdrop of the devastating coronavirus – hypothesised as ‘Disease X’ by World Health Organisation epidemiologists long before its arrival – our formidable panel of virus experts will examine learnings from past pandemics and how they have shaped the society we live in today. They will also discuss the ways in which scientists are preparing to prevent future pandemics and put an end to COVID-19.


Tony Cunningham AO is Co-Director of the Centre for Virus Research at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Director of the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research. His research aims to develop a treatment that acts at the source of infection to prevent the spread of HIV. Professor Cunningham serves on numerous international and Australian expert panels on HIV/HSV, antivirals and vaccines. He is also a collaborator on Powerhouse Museum’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Collection initiative.

Medical virologist and infectious diseases physician Dominic Dwyer was Australia’s representative on the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19. He is Director of Public Health Pathology in NSW; Director of the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at Westmead Hospital; and Clinical Professor at the University of Sydney’s Westmead Clinical School. Professor Dwyer has a clinical and research interest in viral diseases of public health importance and runs a clinical trials unit in antiviral drugs and vaccines.

Professor Raina MacIntyre heads the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute (UNSW), which conducts research in epidemiology, vaccinology, bioterrorism prevention, mathematical modelling, genetic epidemiology, public health and clinical trials in infectious diseases. She has a 28-year track record in pandemics, epidemic infections, serious emerging infections, vaccines and control of respiratory viruses. For over 15 years she worked at the National Centre for Immunisation Research, where she conducted many vaccine clinical trials and developed expertise in vaccine programs for adults, at-risk and immunosuppressed populations.

Moderator Dr Norman Swan is a multi-award-winning producer, broadcaster and investigative journalist who is renowned for delivering straight, honest, commonsense health information. When the news on COVID-19 unfolded, he stepped up to answer Australians’ questions and cover the key issues with clear, evidence-based information across multiple programs and platforms – including co-hosting the highly subscribed daily Coronacast podcast.