November 4, 2013  Print

The Westmead medical research community has welcomed the Rudd Labor Government’s commitment of $12 million dollars towards the completion of Stage 2 of the new Westmead Millennium Institute (WMI) research facility. 

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement during a visit to the Westmead Hospital campus on Sunday (August 18th). The funding will allow commencement of Stage 2 of the new building following the completion of Stage 1 due in early 2014. 

“The funding will expand the capacity of the Westmead Campus to deliver health, education and economic benefits to Greater Western Sydney (GWS) and beyond by expanding research, medical, dental and post graduate student training, with new jobs and enhanced translation of research outcomes from the laboratory bench to the patient and community,” said Executive Director of WMI, Professor Tony Cunningham.

“The overwhelming benefit to the community is that ground-breaking research into Australia’s major health problems such as the National Health priorities of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health can expand,” said Professor Cunningham.

The new WMI will provide shared medical research facilities for the Westmead Research Hub (WRH), which includes the WMI, the Children’s Medical Research Institute, the Kids Research Institute, Westmead Hospital, the Children’s Hospital Westmead, the University of Sydney and other universities.

Currently under construction, Stage 1 of the new WMI building will cost $110 million.
Covering 17,000-square metres, the building will accommodate the WMI’s wet and dry research labs, and shared core high technology facilities for genomics, flow cytometry, cell imaging and cell and gene therapy research, used by the Westmead research institutes and hospitals for research and diagnostic purposes.

Stage 2 of the new WMI building will cost a total of $32 million when complete and will provide an additional 6,000 square metres of research, education and meeting facilities, and an auditorium.
Stage 1 of WMI will generate approximately 900 jobs during construction. The development of Stage 2 will create a further 170 construction jobs.

Combined, Stages 1 and 2 will accommodate 200 additional researchers including 20 clinician scientists who will become national leaders in their disciplines. It is expected that Stage 1 and 2 combined will inject over $140 million into the economy, further contributing to the Western Sydney region’s economic base.

WMI is making major advances in discovering the genes underlying susceptibility to melanoma, multiple sclerosis, blindness in the elderly and diabetes. It is also making progress towards the cure of Type 1 diabetes through pancreatic islet transplantation.

The WMI originated from research centres based at Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney in 1996 and quickly became one of Australia’s largest and most productive medical research institutes, quadrupling its research productivity. 

Over the past 17 years, the WMI has grown considerably from approximately 80 staff in 1996 to over 430 in 2013. Over the past five years, due to lack of space, the WMI has had to turn away five new research groups and over 30 research scientists.

“This large ‘critical’ mass of healthcare research in the WMI and across the Westmead campus helps to attract the best doctors to the region and provides high quality jobs,” said Professor Cunningham.