As Australian retailers start to feel the sting of coronavirus fears, an unlikley fashion hero has emerged.

Dolce & Gabanna.

The designer brand, founded by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, is funding a study into therapeutic interventions for the virus.

The research will be coordinated by Professor Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of Humanitas University.

Dolce and Gabbana confirmed they had collaborated with Humanitas University in the past, with scholarships offered to medicine students.

“We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus, which started from China but is threatening all mankind," they said in a joint statement.

"In these cases, it is important to make the right choice.

"This is why we thought Humanitas University would be the ideal partner, whose excellence and humanity make it a special entity, with which we have already cooperated on a scholarship project.

“In the face of these tragedies of such a vast scale, each action may seem insignificant.

"But Prof. Mantovani told us the African fable about a hummingbird: while all the other animals were fleeing from a fire in the forest, it flew in the opposite direction, continuing to bring water in the attempt to put out the fire.

"We understood that in any case it was worth doing something.

"Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us, we hope our contribution will help to solve this dramatic problem."

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 71,000 people around the world, mostly in mainland China. The death toll is 1,775.

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