Translational Research Institute Queensland receives record $50M gift

Resource type: News

UQ/Translational Research Institute |

Australia will have a stronger role in global efforts to address major diseases like cancer and diabetes following a $50 million gift, the biggest donation of its kind in the nation’s history. 

The gift, announced today by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, is a Founding Chairman’s grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies to the $354 million Translational Research Institute Queensland, in Brisbane. The institute will enhance and accelerate the translation of medical research breakthroughs into better patient care. 

TRI Queensland Chairman, Dr David Watson, was effusive in his praise for the latest round of fundraising, particularly Atlantic’s historic gift. 

“It’s amazing, really. We’ve been working on this plan for years. We’ve always had the support of the Queensland Government,” Dr Watson said. 

“And in 2007, we knew we were well and truly on our way when the Australian Government backed us with $100 million. 

But we’ve been sitting at $254 million for a long time, and still needed another $100 million to get this project started. 

“Since May 12, we’ve raised that $100 million: $40 million from the Australian Government, $10 million from The University of Queensland (UQ), and this unprecedented gift of $50 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies. This is a great day for Queensland and a great day for Australia.” 

TRI Queensland will augment the role of Queensland-based scientists – including the co-inventor of the technology for the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, Professor Ian Frazer – in the delivery of therapeutics to benefit people worldwide. 

The gift is the largest ever from a non-government source to a single Australian medical research/higher education institute. 

It was triggered by a series of grants from the Queensland and Australian governments, most recently $40 million from the Australian Government’s Health and Hospitals Fund, pledged in the May 12 Federal Budget. 

Atlantic’s founder, Mr Charles F. Feeney, was instrumental in encouraging a co-ordinated funding approach. (Click here to watch an interview of Mr Feeney by Kerry O’Brien on the ABC 7.30 Report). 

TRI Queensland will be an Australian first. At 32,000 square metres it will be one of the southern hemisphere’s largest facilities of its kind, and one of only a few places in the world where new biopharmaceuticals and treatments can be discovered, produced, clinically tested, and manufactured in one location. 

Its clinically focused research activity will be comparable in scope to the world renowned National Institute of Medical Research at Mill Hill in London and the Intramural division of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in the USA. 

It will be built at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), by a joint venture comprising UQ, The Queensland University of Technology (QUT), PAH, Mater Medical Research Institute (MMRI) and the Queensland Government. 

Professor Frazer, who was made Australian of the Year in 2006 for his role in the cervical cancer vaccine, said: “The incredibly generous gift by The Atlantic Philanthropies will enable several research groups to work together to prevent and control major health problems in Australia and in our region, including infectious disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

“Innovative building design and state of the art equipment will maximise the opportunity for interactions and accelerate progress towards solutions for these common and serious disorders,” said Professor Frazer, who heads UQ’s Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine. 

One of the leaders in the TRI Queensland initiative, former Director of MMRI, Professor Derek Hart, said it would help attract the most brilliant scientific minds from around the world to Queensland to join the research revolution. 

“By virtue of its facilities and connectivity the TRI Queensland will create a virtual explosion of knowledge, creativity and innovation in our health and medical research,” Professor Hart said. 

Professor Ian Zimmer, Chair of the MMRI, attests: “The MMRI will link the TRI Queensland to the world-class health care facilities and medical staff treating adults, women and children at the Mater campus, a vital element for converting scientific discovery into treatment innovation.” 

Being located at Queensland’s second largest hospital, it will combine academic medicine and translational research, in order to minimise the time between a laboratory discovery and its effective application in the clinic and the community. 

It will also produce, for early stage clinical trials, biopharmaceuticals that are of high clinical value. They might not otherwise see the light of day due to insufficient commercial interest from for-profit manufacturers, deterred by financial risks inherent in the testing, manufacturing, and distribution processes. 

TRI Queensland will eventually house more than 700 researchers from PAH, UQ’s Diamantina Institute, QUT and MMRI, along with Biopharmaceuticals Australia (a Queensland Government production facility). 

Approximately 2000 jobs will be supported by the construction phase. 

Scientists from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) will be part of TRI Queensland and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake said the TRI Queensland would advance the capacity of QUT’s innovative health and biomedical research program. 

“TRI Queensland will allow QUT to form even stronger clinical links with our colleagues at Princess Alexandra Hospital to make a real difference in the treatment of patients in the areas of cancer, traumatic injury and wound healing,” Professor Coaldrake said. 

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield said it would fill an infrastructure gap that had allowed significant earnings from inventions such as the cervical cancer vaccine to haemorrhage out of Australia. 

“The cervical cancer vaccine originated in Queensland, but Australia is foregoing as much as $300 million per annum because we had no capacity to fully trial and commercialise the drug. TRI Queensland will fix that problem for future discoveries,” Professor Greenfield said. 

The Atlantic Philanthropies’ gift adds to: 
• $140 million from the Australian Government; 
• $100 million from the Queensland Government; 
• $25 million from QUT; 
• $10 million from UQ; 
• Other public funding totalling $17 million for Biopharmaceuticals Australia; and 
• $12 million (estimate) interest from Australian Government funding. 

The project has in-kind contributions of land from the Queensland Government, and of foregone laboratory and teaching space from the MMRI, the PAH Collaborative Centres for Health Research and Education, and UQ. 

TRI Queensland will be integral to an emerging health research precinct that includes UQ’s Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence, which is being built next door. 

Prior to this donation, Atlantic’s contributions to Brisbane-based research had led to the completion of research facilities with a total value approaching $1 billion. 

Atlantic’s earlier donations to TRI Queensland joint venture partners for medical research facilities include: 

• $22.5 million for QUT’s IHBI; 
• $20 million for QUT’s Centre for Physical Activity, Health and Clinical Education; 
• $10 million for UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience; 
• $17.5 million for UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology; 
• $20 million for UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute; and 
• $20 million for UQ’s Centre for Clinical Research. 

About Translational Research Institute Queensland 

The AU$354 million TRI Queensland will be one of the largest medical research institutes in the southern hemisphere integrated into a clinical campus and focused on translational research. It will be one of the few facilities in the world that will have the capacity to discover, produce, clinically test, and manufacture new biopharmaceuticals and treatments all in one place. 

Its focus will include cancers, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, bone and joint diseases, and obesity. 

It will be located at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, the second-largest hospital in Queensland, Australia, and will link to a clinical research node at the nearby Mater Hospital campus. The TRI Queensland building will include Biopharmaceuticals Australia (a Queensland Government facility to produce material for clinical trials). 

TRI Queensland is a joint venture involving The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Mater Medical Research Institute and the Queensland Government. 

About The Atlantic Philanthropies 

The Atlantic Philanthropies is dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Atlantic focuses on four critical social problems — Aging, Disadvantaged Children and Youth, Population Health, and Reconciliation and Human Rights. Programs funded by Atlantic operate in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United States and Viet Nam. To learn more, please visit http://atlanticphilanthropies.org/ 

Contacts for media: 

QUT: Janne Rayner: 07 3138 3026/ 0407 585 901 
MMRI: Topaz Conway: 07 3163 3888/ 0432 632 388 
UQ: Fiona Kennedy: 07 3365 1384/0413 380 012
 

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