25 March 2019
A $30 million cash injection to Melbourne’s ground-breaking bio-medical research centre will keep the city at the global cutting edge of medical technology, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Next month’s federal budget will commit the money for a new building that the scientists and researchers at Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery at St Vincent’s Hospital have been dreaming about for more than a decade.
The new building will give the city Australia’s only facility where bio-medical research and development takes place in an actual hospital, with one leading medical researcher saying on Sunday: “This changes everything.”
Aikenhead has already produced ground-breaking medical innovations, including a head implant that talks to an epilepsy patient’s mobile phone, warning them when a seizure is imminent, and the 3-D printing of human stem cells which are then injected into joints to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.
Researchers at Aikenhead have also developed another 3-D printing technique, which produces replacement human bones and uses surgical robots to fit them to cancer patients or trauma victims.
But the new 11-storey building, planned for the corner of Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street, has the potential to bring the centre’s work to another level, according to Professor Mark Cook of St Vincent’s hospital.
“I think it’ll change everything,” Professor Cook said.
“It’ll be a unique facility like nothing else in Australia and there are very few of these sorts of arrangements like this in the world where you’ve actually got the bio-engineering facility in a clinical site.”
The federal funding would allow the $180 million project to go ahead, according to the Aikenhead Centre, with the rest of the cost to be made up by the state government, which has promised to contribute $60 million to the project.
Private philanthropy and commercial partners are expected to round out the funding.
Professor Cook said the key to the success of the centre was concentrating engineers, scientists and developers as well as commercial bio-medical firms in one place, all located in a working hospital.
“At the heart of it all was the idea that we took material scientists and engineers and put them in a clinical environment,” the neurosurgeon said.
“We saw this was the key to making new developments happen very much more quickly because you get everybody mixing together and the rapid exchange of ideas.
“Getting them all together is the key.”
Mr Morrison, who will join his Health Minister Greg Hunt in Melbourne on Monday to announce the funding, said patients would be the winners from the budget commitment.
“Our strong economic management means we can provide world-leading treatment options for patients in Melbourne,” the Prime Minister told The Age.
“Today’s Health and Medical Research Plan cements Melbourne’s place as a global leader in health and medical research, creating jobs while importantly providing support for Australians patients.”
Mr Hunt said the Aikenhead funding was part of a broader health funding package for the state.
“The Victorian package puts Melbourne at the global forefront of cancer research and gives our patients the best chance of treating and beating cancer,” the Health Minister said.
“This plans builds on the more than 55 per cent increase in Commonwealth funding to Victorian hospitals, record bulk billing and more than 2000 new medicines subsided under the PBS.”