October 9, 2014  Print

A state-of-the-art, $110 million, medical research centre has been officially opened in Western Sydney by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird.

The new Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research building brings together almost 400 clinicians, scientists, postgraduate students and support staff with the aim of accelerating research into Australia’s major health problems and translating its outcomes into new diagnostics, prognostics, preventions, therapies and cures.

The nine-story complex comprises 17,500 square metres of research laboratories, plus core high technology facilities used for disease gene discovery, cell sorting and imaging, and the development of new cellular and genetic therapies.

The building was majority funded by the Australian and NSW Governments, with additional significant contributions from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, and other generous donors through the Westmead Medical Research Foundation.

Previously accommodated in six locations on the Westmead hospital campus, WMI’s 11 centres of research have been brought together in one building for the first time.
WMI executive director Professor Tony Cunningham says it has been carefully designed to facilitate collaboration between different medical research disciplines.

“The building encourages interaction and the exchange of knowledge and ideas between researchers who were previously physically isolated from one another,” said Professor Cunningham.

“This is enhancing collaborations across disciplines and I believe it will lead to some significant research advances.”

The building accommodates WMI’s basic and translational research programs into a large number of public health concerns including breast cancer, blindness, depression, diabetes, heart disease, herpes, HIV, kidney disease, leukaemia, melanoma, multiple sclerosis, sleep apnoea and emerging infectious diseases.

The new WMI is designed to provide scientific services and support for researchers in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The building’s core high-technology facilities serve not only WMI but also scientists from the neighbouring institutes and hospitals on the Westmead health campus – which together with the University of Sydney comprise the Westmead Research Hub.

WMI’s core high-tech research facilities include:

  • Genomics – DNA sequencing and genotyping including the Sydney node of the Australian
  • Genome Research Facility.
  • Flow Cytometry/Sorting – a million dollar facility for isolating and characterizing target cells.
  • Cell Imaging – fixed and live cell imaging using advanced light and electron microscopy.
  • Human Applications Laboratory – a contamination-free facility for research into cellular andgenetic therapeutic products.
  • Biobanks – human tissue banks to facilitate research into cancers, infections and immunediseases.

“In an environment where society’s requirement for medical research is growing but funding is not, we have to be smart about how we organize ourselves in order to maximize what can be achieved with limited research funds,” said Professor Cunningham.

Despite moving a short distance, WMI retains very strong links to Westmead Hospital. All its centres are led by clinician scientists and Professor Cunningham says the number one goal of all research is to make discoveries that can one day be used to help patients.

“Medical research these days is heavily focused on practical outcomes. WMI has a long and successful history of turning medical discoveries into improved health for Australians and the new building is all about taking what we discover on the lab bench and translating it to the bedside,” said Professor Cunningham.