Released By: The Minister for Innovation
Release Date: Tue 12 February 2008

A new era in Australian research into chronic diseases like cancer started today at the Australian Synchrotron, with construction beginning on a new $10 million facility for advanced medical research.

Minister for Innovation, Gavin Jennings, said the new beamline would be the first at the centre to be used for research into new techniques for medical diagnosis and therapy.

"This new beamline, one of the first in the world, will be the centrepiece of the Imaging and Medical Therapy centre," Mr Jennings said.

Opening in late 2008, the new Imaging and Medical Therapy Centre will use synchrotron x-rays to advance studies in biological, medical and industrial sciences.

It will lead to major advances in medical, biomedical and industrial imaging and importantly assist with the development and delivery of new cancer treatments.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said cancer was the leading cause of death for Victorians, with one in three affected by the disease.

"The new beamline will continue to foster Victoria's international reputation in cancer research," Mr Andrews said.

"This initiative shows that Victorians can be confident that the Government is committed to improving cancer services and building on Victoria's status as a world-class centre for research and cancer treatment excellence."

Mr Andrews said that while cancer survival had increased from 48 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2004 in Victoria, the government would continue to work on finding new treatments.

"Since 2000 this Government has committed nearly $700 million in medical research to create world class research facilities, including $25 million towards establishing the Olivia Newton John Cancer Treatment and Research Centre at the Austin Hospital," Mr Andrews said.

"The Government's Victorian Cancer Agency Consultative Council was created last year to help turn laboratory breakthroughs into improved treatments.

"We've also appointed leading cancer surgeon Professor Robert Thomas as the state's first Chief Clinical Advisor for Cancer and announced several exciting initiatives including $5 million planning money for a world-class cancer precinct at Parkville.

"We have also instituted new regulations around the use of solariums that will save the lives of Victorians and announced nearly $6 million in research grants for 2007/08, nearly three times the allocation last year."

Mr Jennings said that in addition to pioneering new treatments for cancer, the Imaging and Medical Therapy Centre would further medical research that could help premature babies.

"Synchrotron x-rays allow our leading scientists to see for the first time what happens when mammals take their first breath," Mr Jennings said.

"It's not well understood how our lungs go from a fluid to an aerated state when we are born and for premature babies, this process can be problematic due to the immaturity of their lungs.

"Through the examination of lungs in animals, the Synchrotron will enable us to build a model that will help take the guesswork out of ventilation in humans in to the future.

Professor Tony Burgess from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research said the new facility will lead to major breakthroughs for Australian biomedical science.

"Having this facility on our own soil will not only speed up existing research, it will allow many more medical researchers to access these tools for the first time," he said.

Mr Jennings said the $220 million Australian Synchrotron's wide-ranging applicability to medial research, aeronautics, materials engineering, agriculture and general biology made it a key part of Australia's innovation future.

"Since the Australian Synchrotron officially opened in July 2007, Australian and international scientists have used the facility's unique research capabilities to examine a wide range of biological, geological and engineering samples," Mr Jennings said.

"Many have already made significant advances in important fields such as climate change, in-vitro fertilisation, mineral processing and the development of new medical drugs.

"The Synchrotron is also being used remotely by school physics students to study light ensuring as many Australians as possible are benefiting from this world class research facility."

Catherine Walter, Chair of the Australian Synchrotron Company, said today's announcement was an important milestone in the development of the facility.

"We already have a world-class synchrotron. This new development has the potential to take us to the forefront of biomedical research and position us within the top three synchrotron facilities world-wide in this field," Ms Walter said.

Mr Jennings said today's announcement at the Australian Synchrotron was part of a two day Cabinet Forum to focus on Victoria's biotechnology and medical research sector.

"The Victorian Government's Biotechnology Strategic Development Plan aims to position the State among the world's top five destinations for biotechnology by 2010," Mr Jennings said.

"The Plan's targets include seeing 10 firms achieve market capitalisation in excess of $250 million and the sector to have raised $1 billion in capital by 2010."

< Back to media releases