23 October 2006

The latest addition to a cluster of research institutes at The University of Queensland, the $70 million Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) opens today at the University’s St Lucia campus.

The opening follows two years’ construction of the six level facility on College Road.

The institute is Australia’s first purpose-built facility for research combining the biological, chemical and physical sciences. It also has a strong focus on working with industry and commercialization of outcomes.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay, AC, said the AIBN was the latest outcome of a highly-successful partnership between The University of Queensland, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Queensland Government.

Professor Hay said the AIBN had attracted team leaders, post-doctoral researchers and students from around the world.

“Many of these researchers are part of international collaborations of the highest calibre, with organisations including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the US, the Chinese Academy of Science, and the European Union,” he said.

“The presence at UQ of UniQuest, a national leader in technology commercialisation, will ensure that commercially-viable outcomes of AIBN research are available to industry and the community in an optimal timeframe.”

AIBN Director Professor Peter Gray said the new AIBN building represented the latest in lab design. It currently houses over 250 staff and students, with a capacity of 350, in conditions found in very few places globally.

“Furthermore, the facilities and equipment found within the building are among the most advanced, enabling research at the cutting edge of the bio and nano fields,” he said.

Residents of the new building include research groups with interests ranging broadly from genes to nanoparticles. Projects range from technologies to help prevent chemotherapy patients from contracting life-threatening infections; to a needle-less syringe for the delivery of vaccines; to biological markers for early cancer diagnosis; molecules with detergent properties known as surfactants to improve recovery of crude oil from oilfields; and bio-plastics from sugarcane.

The building houses state-of-the-art microfabrication facilities (the collective term for the technologies used to fabricate components on a micrometer-sized scale), a good manufacturing practice (GMP) ready bioprocessing facility and world-class microscopy facilities coupled with advanced data storage and visualisation packages.

Premier Peter Beattie said the Queensland Government and leading experts at The University of Queensland identified at an early stage the enormous potential of marrying bioengineering with nanotechnology.

"The Queensland Government contributed $20 million towards the Institute’s $70 million building which is the first project from the Smart State Research Facility Fund to be completed," Mr Beattie said.
"Our investment in infrastructure and programs at the AIBN will help Queensland maintain its edge as a powerhouse of the knowledge economy and in creating a critical mass of researchers."

It joins a growing number of Smart State initiatives at UQ to be supported by State Government, including the Queensland Brain Institute, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the Sustainable Minerals Institute, the Queensland Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Network, and the UQ Centre for Clinical Research.

Professor Hay said the facility’s completion reasserted that UQ – substantially supported by the Queensland Government and The Atlantic Philanthropies – was building Australia’s finest cluster of new science research institutes.

“Having opened in recent years the $105 million Queensland Bioscience Precinct housing the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, and the $24 million Sir James Foots Building housing the Sustainable Minerals Institute, UQ will next year commission the new $64 million home of the Queensland Brain Institute.”

In coming years, a $60 million UQ Centre for Clinical Research and a $300 million translational medical research facility will also become Brisbane research landmarks.

Professor Hay said their addition would mean that, by the end of this decade, more than 1500 scientists would be conducting bio-related research in new UQ facilities.

“Their output will reward the faith that our funding partners, collaborators, and the national and international communities, place in excellent research,” he said.

Media: Further information, Jan King 0413 601 248, Fiona Kennedy telephone 0413 380 012 or Russell Griggs, telephone 07 3346 2636.