12 May 2009

The University of Queensland (UQ) and Professor Ian Frazer have applauded the Australian Government for pledging $40 million towards a "missing link" medical research and development facility.

Professor Frazer, who was made Australian of the Year in 2006 for co-inventing the world's first cervical cancer vaccine, said the Budget contribution to the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Brisbane would help fill a crucial gap in the nation's medical research capacity.

"This is an investment in the future of Australian medical science, giving the nation a new capacity to address major health issues including cancers, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, bone and joint diseases, and obesity," said Professor Frazer, who heads UQ's Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine.

"Giving teams of researchers new opportunities to collaborate in a purpose-designed and built facility with the latest equipment, the TRI will accelerate progress towards solutions for common and serious disorders.

"It will enable us to more effectively translate laboratory success into benefits for patients, and will help Australians gain economic as well as health benefits when our researchers invent drugs of global importance," Professor Frazer said.

A first for Australia, the $342 million TRI is a joint venture between UQ, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Mater Medical Research Institute and the Queensland Government.

On behalf of the consortium, UQ led a submission to the Australian Government, which was revealed as successful in today's (May 12) Budget.

Construction is due to start this year and finish in 2012. The location is the Princess Alexandra Hospital, a UQ teaching hospital close to Brisbane's CBD and within a precinct that is becoming known as a "Silicon Valley" for medical and pharmaceutical research and development.

The building project is expected to support approximately 2000 jobs in construction and related industries. The completed TRI will accommodate about 900 people - one third of them in new jobs - including about 650 scientists.

UQ Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Greenfield, said it is estimated that Australia foregoes up to $300 million per annum from the vaccine co-invented by Professor Frazer, because the nation has no TRI or equivalent.

"The TRI is a missing link in the chain that delivers drugs from the laboratory to patients, via clinical trials and a complex commercialisation process," Professor Greenfield said.

"It will bring together staff and research students from UQ's Diamantina Institute, the Princess Alexandra Hospital, QUT and the Mater Medical Research Institute, alongside personnel from Biopharmaceuticals Australia (a Queensland Government pharmaceutical production facility).

"It will also attract talented research staff and students from overseas," Professor Greenfield said.

The new grant adds to existing funds from the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and QUT, plus in-kind contributions from the Queensland Government, the Mater Medical Research Institute, the Princess Alexandra Hospital and UQ.

Media contacts: Anton Sanker (for Ian Frazer) 07 3240-5938 or 0412 057 512; Fiona Kennedy (for Paul Greenfield) 07 3365 1384 or 0413 380 012.