Smart windfall to recruit the best
Resource type: News
The Australian |
University of Queensland is an Atlantic grantee.
by Guy Healy
BRISBANE will use $160 million in new and preserved funding to step-up recruitment of top researchers and consolidate a bullish claim to being the country’s “Silicon Valley” for medical and pharmaceutical research and development.
The move comes as the head of one of the country’s largest medical research institutes declared Queensland’s decade-long “smart state” effort had pushed the late starter ahead of its established Melbourne and Sydney rivals.
With 850 scientists working for him, Smart State Council member and Queensland Institute of Medical Research director Michael Good told the HES Brisbane had attracted more than 20 top medical researchers in recent years.
“Queensland and Australia have really moved forward to become competitive at the international level; Queensland has come from behind and matched the other states but is moving ahead faster and the momentum is going very well,” Professor Good said.
The state and federal funding that had been leveraged through the years from capital injections by Atlantic Philanthropies had a “dramatic effect in being able to build great facilities and attract these people”, he said.
The recruitment drive is based on $40m in new federal funding for Ian Frazer’s Translational Research Institute and survival of an earmarked $120m in restyled Smart Futures funding in the Queensland budget. The new federal funding for Professor Frazer’s crowning legacy — the $342m TRI at the Princess Alexandra Hospital — will complete the final part of the funding picture for the complex, which will house 650 scientists once complete in 2012.
University of Queensland acting deputy vice-chancellor, research, Max Lu told the HES the TRI joint venture will be “a landmark of Australian medical research” in Brisbane.
The TRI, a first for Australia, is a joint venture between UQ, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland University of Technology, Mater Medical Research Institute and the Queensland government.
UQ vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield said it was estimated that Australia forwent up to $300m each year from the Gardasil vaccine co-invented by Professor Frazer because the nation had 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.
Professor Frazer, head of the Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine, said the TRI would accelerate progress for common and serious disorders such as cancers, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, bone and joint diseases and obesity.
Three rounds remain of the $83m Smart Futures fund, which comprises an innovation project fund, an innovations skills fund and a proof of concept fund.
The balance of the Smart State funding — which has been continued by Premier Anna Bligh despite the downturn — targets new health research fellowships, investment-ready projects, Smart Futures international fellowships and a sustainable product design program.