Award of $66m building contract

La Trobe University has awarded a $66 million construction contract for its new Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS) – the hub for a totally new and integrated approach to teaching, learning and research.



Work on the all-up $94 million next-generation facility for molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology on the Melbourne campus is scheduled to begin in February.

The contract has been awarded to Watpac, one of Australia’s leading civil and mining construction and property development firms.

The firm has built a range of complex and technically challenging science-based facilities throughout Australia, many focused on medical research.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor, Paul Johnson, said the project comprises 11,000 square metres on six levels and is expected to be completed in late 2012. 

‘The Institute weaves connections between existing and new buildings, and furthers La Trobe’s contribution to an economically significant science precinct in Melbourne’s north.

‘It provides an entirely new approach and focus to critical biosciences work on human diseases including cancer, malaria and autoimmune diseases.  At least 220 extra research positions will be available once the building is open.’ 

Professor Johnson said cleverly designed inter-connected glazed spaces will also bring science into the public eye.

There will be three levels of teaching laboratories, support spaces, a ground-level lecture theatre and ‘equipment barn’. The upper three levels will comprise research laboratories and office space.

Greg Kempton, Watpac Managing Director, said LIMS was an exciting project.

‘I am very pleased Watpac will be a major part of realising La Trobe University’s vision of becoming a world leader in molecular science research. We are looking forward to delivering this world-class facility for the next generation of leading scientists.’

LIMS will train scientists for key roles in new biotechnology industries.

Undergraduate students from various disciplines – biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, physics and molecular archaeology – will all work under the one roof to achieve results not possible in traditional academic settings.

Here they will rub shoulders with postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists who are translating research findings into commercial products, such as therapeutic and diagnostic reagents.

Alongside, through an innovative outreach program, LIMS will also expose secondary school students to University research and higher education, provoking their interest and inspiring them to consider careers in science.

Designed by leading university architects, Lyons, the building makes extensive use of a large internal atrium to connect the research and teaching components of LIMS. It not only allows students and researchers to interact, but visitors will also be able to view the teaching and research activities.

The winning design for the Institute was announced last November by Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

He said Government innovation strategy stressed the importance of concentrating Australia’s research strengths and collaboration between individuals, institutions, sectors, and disciplines.

‘The La Trobe Institute ticks all these boxes - and more. It will translate the fruits of basic research into commercial products, such as reagents that can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases,’ he said.