$123.7m to transform science and health

VIDEO MEDIA RELEASE: La Trobe University today welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that it will provide $123.7 million of funds to spearhead science and regional health efforts.

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The funds will go towards establishing the $97.9 million La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences (LIMS) in north Melbourne and the $88.9 million La Trobe Rural Health School (LRHS) in Bendigo. $64.1 million has been allocated by the Government in LIMS and $59.6 million allocated for LRHS.

‘This funding is a clear vote of confidence in the future of La Trobe,” said La Trobe Vice- Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson. 'We submitted two high quality applications that were each successful on their merits’ he said.

‘These two projects are groundbreaking in their approach, setting the mould for next generation of science and regional health in Australia. The funding is a clear vote of confidence in La Trobe University and its key research strength in biosciences and quality higher education.

‘We will be able to expand our strong track record in scientific research and education, as well as our pioneering practice of bringing together many different disciplines to solve big problems, including cancer, malaria and autoimmune diseases,’ said Professor Johnson.

‘The Rural Health School will play a critical part in improving health services practice and service delivery in northern Victoria while its research program will focus on practice enhancement, workforce development and service improvement, particularly in relation to ageing and chronic disease’ he added.

‘Our bid would not have succeeded without the very active support of Steve Gibbons MP and his office, and I would like to thank him for helping bring this important infrastructure to Bendigo.’ said Professor Johnson.

The two projects are expected to create 280 extra jobs to address the immediate critical shortage of bio-scientists and health workers as well as 1,350 construction jobs.*

‘I am hopeful that these projects will contribute to the economies and job-creation in the north of Melbourne and central Victoria. The University is deeply committed to these regions and our strength as an institution is directly linked to the sustainability of our communities,’ said Professor Johnson.

As well as generating immediate new jobs, both centres will play a major role in securing a stream of future workers for the community.

‘Future success in scientific research and health depends on a strong pipeline of students,’ said Professor Johnson.

‘The Rural Health School will improve rural participation rates in health education with 781 additional student places, generating an additional 211 graduates each year, while the Institute for Molecular Sciences will continue playing a major role through this building which will see us engage over 2,500 secondary school students in our outreach science program.’

Professor Johnson said that the investment by the Federal Government in the Rural Health School further develops the University’s relationship with Bendigo Health and the regional Victorian health sector, and strengthens La Trobe’s role in helping address the current and projected health workforce shortages.

Professor Johnson stated that the expansion of the Bendigo campus was a priority for the University.

He said the infrastructure supports a recent Federal Government grant of $3.16M to appoint four professors and supplements $24 m contributions by the Victorian State Government.  

Professor Johnson said he believed the new La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences would dramatically elevate the University’s ability to earn research income and contribute to key molecular science research.  The Institute would also have a key role in developing a strong science precinct in the north and develop a range of career opportunities in Melbourne’s north.  

‘Through this interdisciplinary approach, we expect the University to earn an extra $10m each year in research income, contributing to our already outstanding reputation for grant and research income.’

In 2008, La Trobe University was ranked 11th in Australia for competitive National Health and Medical Research Council grants, ahead of all universities without a medical school.  

‘This project, along with the additional development of a $230m Biosciences Research Centre, will significantly increase La Trobe’s leadership in science research,’ said Professor Johnson.

The total commitment to investment in sciences at La Trobe in the last two years is approximately $350m.

International links too will be strengthened with the focus of the new Institute being to work on liver cancer collaboratively with the Mochtar Riady Institute for Nanotechnology in Indonesia.

*Research from National Economics

At a glance
The La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences
Will be a world-class facility for molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology research and research training, creating:
*    220 extra research positions to address a critical shortage of bioscientists in Australia;
*    Basic and commercial research outcomes and additional research income of $10m annually;
*    An economically significant biotechnology research and development hub in northern Melbourne;
*    An extended science outreach program for over 2,500 secondary school students across northern Melbourne; and
*    Over 800 direct and indirect construction jobs.

The La Trobe Rural Health School
A radical and original model for health professional education and research across northern Victoria that will:
*    Transform regional health care outcomes and service delivery in northern Victoria
*    Increase higher education participation rates for rural Victoria.
*    Improve the educational experience for health science students and attract health experts from across the nation.
*    Encourage and strengthen the integration of higher education in northern Victoria.
*    Address major health workforce shortages across northern Victoria.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Mark Pearce, Media Manager La Trobe University
T:03.9479.5246  M:0423 783 756  E:m.pearce@latrobe.edu.au