06/08/2008 - 22:00

$360m medical research investment

06/08/2008 - 22:00

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More than 1,500 medical and scientific researchers are expected to be working in the Nedlands research precinct following completion of a $360 million investment program.

More than 1,500 medical and scientific researchers are expected to be working in the Nedlands research precinct following completion of a $360 million investment program.

The precinct is already home to the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and pathology testing service PathWest, which are planning to develop new premises.

A $40 million neurosciences research facility and a new headquarters for the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research are also earmarked for the precinct, which is also home to the Lion's Eye Institute.

The investment in the research centres will be additional to the planned development of a "super hospital" in Nedlands.

This will comprise an upgrade of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the construction of new children's and women's hospitals, to replace Princess Margaret Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital respectively.

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research director Fiona Stanley said the institute would benefit from being close to a wide variety of experts.

"Moving to the research precinct will be important for our institute, so that we retain our close relationships with the major teaching hospitals to ensure that research can both inform and respond to clinical needs," she said.

WAIMR director Professor Peter Klinken said co-location of the facilities offered many benefits.

"The opportunity this precinct presents for the state's researchers and the wider community is extraordinary and will ensure Western Australians are first in line to enjoy the health benefits of world-class medical research breakthroughs made in their own backyard," he said.

Construction of the first of the new buildings, a $100 million landmark centre for WAIMR and a $71 million laboratory for PathWest, will start in early 2009 to be completed in 2011.

The $40 million neurosciences research facility will also be built during this time.

Once complete, work will begin on a new building for the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, which has 450 staff and students operating from premises in West Perth.

The institute is currently evaluating whether it will operate at two sites or move entirely to the Nedlands precinct, at a cost of up to $150 million.

It has secured $63 million in funding from the state and federal governments and will need to raise the balance.

A $20 million donation by Perth businessman Ralph Sarich will help fund the neurosciences research facility.

Health Minister Jim McGinty said Mr Sarich's contribution was "the largest philanthropic donation ever made in WA".

"This new research precinct is set to rival the best in the world," Mr McGinty said. "I believe it will serve as a beacon attracting the best scientists and researchers from across Australia and beyond to Perth."

Mr McGinty encouraged other financially successful Western Australians to contribute to the development of world-class facilities for the state.

"Many Western Australians have done extremely well financially in recent years and it is great to see people like Mr Sarich making such an enormous contribution and helping projects like this get off the ground," Mr McGinty said.

Mr Sarich said in a statement he was delighted to see the new research centre taking shape.

"My contribution will fund a major new neurosciences research facility, which will be tasked with finding new treatments for a host of conditions including head injuries, brain tumours, epilepsy and spinal problems."

University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Professor Alan Robson said the university supported the development program. "This is a vital step in the history of not only the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, but also UWA and importantly the future of medical research in WA," he said.

Professor Robson said UWA had contributed the land for the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre more than 50 years ago, and had an established teaching and research presence on the site to complement and enhance the provision of medical treatment.

The government is spending $5 billion upgrading WA health facilities.

 

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