20/11/2007 - 22:00

Biotech precinct planned

20/11/2007 - 22:00

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Murdoch University is finalising plans for a new multi-million dollar biotechnology precinct that will open up its campus to industry and government tenants, and provide access to the proposed Fiona Stanley hospital.

Murdoch University is finalising plans for a new multi-million dollar biotechnology precinct that will open up its campus to industry and government tenants, and provide access to the proposed Fiona Stanley hospital.

The main feature of the university’s plan, which is yet to be approved by Melville City Council, is a series of new buildings for the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, which is relocating from its Bentley site.

DAFWA, which is close to finalising a ground lease with Murdoch, will move its headquarters on campus, and build a new biosecurity centre.

A $10 million road, called Discovery Drive, will be built through the middle of the campus, connecting Murdoch Drive and the Fiona Stanley hospital site with a number of internal buildings.

One of these is the $64 million Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, which received almost $20 million in federal government funding earlier this year and is currently under construction.

Other buildings within the precinct include the university’s veterinary school and the State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre.

Murdoch vice chancellor John Yovich said the precinct would enhance research collaboration between the university, government and industry, optimising the use of equipment and infrastructure.

“Clustering of these entities is essential to the long term international competitiveness of WA’s agricultural and biotechnology industries,” he said.

Professor Yovich said the new road would also give improved access to facilities like the university’s chiropractic centre, and would help to create a university town environment.

He said the new biosecurity centre would be a major research hub that would help to protect WA’s export market and border protection through surveillance and research into virology, bacteriology and pathology.

Murdoch also hopes that the precinct will attract private investment and encourage businesses in biotechnology and related fields to relocate to the campus.

DAFWA’s new buildings are part of a move to redistribute its functions across the campuses of the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Murdoch.

In its May budget, the state government allocated $183 million towards the project.

The funding will be used to build DAFWA’s headquarters and the biosecurity centre at Murdoch. It will also fund the initial stage of Agricultural Research WA, which is a research partnership between the three universities and DAFWA.

Under the partnership, centres of research will be established at each university.

Murdoch will house biotechnology and animal research centres, and potentially some grain breeding programs, while Curtin is expected to host a centre for food research.

UWA’s Underwood Avenue site, where the CSIRO is based, is the prospective site for DAFWA’s research into climate, natural resource management and soil science.

The planning for the UWA and Curtin stages will be funded by an additional $3 million from the state government.

DAFWA executive director of business services, Mike Marsh, said the aim of the project was to match the government agency’s research activities with those of the universities, to create better linkages. 

“The whole concept is about trying to rationalise the science and replace those facilities that are way past their use by date,” Mr Marsh said.

He said there would be opportunities to commercialise parts of the research programs in future.

Murdoch’s total campus area comprises 225 hectares, making it the largest single campus in Australia. The new projects are expected to be completed by 2011.

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