The University has welcomed the news that Australia’s first Research Hub for Medicinal Agriculture will be located at its Melbourne campus in Bundoora. The $27+ million initiative will combine extensive research and industry expertise to create new jobs and drive better health outcomes.
Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham today announced almost $5 million of funding towards the La Trobe-led Australian Research Council (ARC) Industry Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) for Medicinal Agriculture. La Trobe has committed $10 million, with a commitment of $6 million from industry partners.
Minister Birmingham said the Hub was a major step forward for Australia’s developing medicinal agriculture industry.
“This is about injecting knowledge at all parts of the supply chain from producers to manufacturers and exporters to ensure they have the tools to develop and expand their enterprises,” Minister Birmingham said.
La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, said the Hub would position Australia as a world leader, and aligns with Victoria’s strong focus on the emerging medicinal agriculture market.
“The new ARC Research Hub for Medicinal Agriculture will combine La Trobe’s exceptional research capabilities in the fields of agricultural and biomedical sciences, with the capabilities of our research and industry partners, to provide a much-needed evidence base around the growth and use of medicinal plants such as cannabis,” Professor Dewar said.
“The Hub is a key component of our ongoing commitment to agri-food research, including a significant investment in the newly established La Trobe Institute for Agriculture & Food (LIAF), helping boost economic activity in Melbourne’s north.
“It will play a pivotal role in the vision for La Trobe’s Research and Innovation Precinct to support innovation, new product development and industry collaboration.”
La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research), Professor Keith Nugent, said The University is perfectly positioned to lead this important collaborative initiative.
“Our proven research strengths in agri-bio, and our established connection with industry, make us an ideal lead for this major initiative that will help solve a major global challenge facing health practitioners, policy makers and regulators,” Professor Nugent said.
“Collectively we will do this by building an evidence base around the growth and use of medicinal plants including cannabis and opioids, with the potential to treat a range of chronic medical conditions.”
The resulting value of the Hub is estimated at an additional $1-2 billion per annum in potential industry value, resulting in a cumulative benefit of $5-10 billion over the five-year period of 20182022.
Based at La Trobe, the Hub comprises agricultural and biomedical researchers along with existing and new industry partners including Cann Group Limited and TPI Enterprises and research partners including the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) and the University of Melbourne.
Director of the ARC Research Hub for Medicinal Agriculture Professor Tony Bacic said the Hub will fill an important gap by conducting vital research into plant varieties, commercial cultivation practices, chemical synthesis and extraction techniques.
“The Hub will use evidence-based research to safeguard quality, safety, purity, mode of action of cannabinoids and scale of cultivation, and production of medicinal cannabis,” Professor Bacic said.
“It will also conduct research on opioids around breeding new, disease-resistant varieties and increasing yield.”
Professor Bacic went on to say the Hub will act as a catalyst for further research to be conducted in this emerging field, attracting local and global research talent and creating jobs in an emerging industry.
“The Hub will be a powerhouse of research and industry talent in medicinal agriculture, attracting international partners as well as offering $2 million of scholarships for graduate students, thereby creating a pipeline for new high-skill jobs in the sector,” Professor Bacic said.
“An additional 200 jobs will be generated, benefiting rural and regional Australia via its impact on cultivation and farming practices.
“Most importantly, this powerful research and industry collaboration has the potential to improve health outcomes for thousands of people living with chronic medical conditions.”
The ARC Industry Transformation Research Hub will comprise an Industry Advisory Group chaired by Professor David Penington AC, who has been prominent in guiding the establishment of the policy and regulatory framework within Australia, enabling the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry in Australia.
The Hub is the first of a number of initiatives arising from the $50 million commitment to the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF), which is actively seeking industry and community partners for new and innovative opportunities to transform the scope, scale and translation of Australian agri-food research and innovation sector.
Notes to editors
Partners involved in the ARC Research Hub for Medicinal Agriculture
- La Trobe University – lead
- Cann Group Limited (ASX: CAN)
- TPI Enterprises
- HEXIMA LTD
- Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI)
- The University of Melbourne
- Under the Tree (UTT) Biopharmaceuticals Pty Ltd
- Bioplatforms Australia Ltd (BPA)
- SensaData Pty Ltd
- Photon Systems Instruments (PSI)
- Palo Alto Research Center Inc.
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