Research facilities at James Cook University in Cairns are set to expand, with plans for a new research building for the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) as well as a refit of some existing research facilities.
The University has secured $6.5 million from the Queensland Government for the project, and is now in the early planning stages for the building while awaiting confirmation of another $18 million as part of a $42 million Australian Commonwealth commitment to the AITHM, announced by the Coalition in the lead-up to last year’s election.
With facilities planned for Cairns, Townsville and the Torres Strait, AITHM has three research priorities: Australia’s health security and biosecurity; health in rural, remote, Indigenous and tropical Australia; health in the tropics, regionally and globally.
“Our location puts us on Australia’s frontline for biosecurity and health security, ideally placed to tackle issues including the prevalence of tuberculosis in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, as well as dengue fever, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and soil-transmitted parasites,” Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Wronski said.
“These are diseases that have a devastating effect on many developing nations in the tropics and also pose a threat to Australians, given our frequent interactions with neighbouring countries.
“AITHM builds on the University’s existing expertise in these areas, including our connection with Australia’s first medical research institute, the Australian Institute for Tropical Medicine, which opened in Townsville in 1913.”
AITHM’s research endeavours to capture the growing global market for health solutions that provide better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tropical infectious diseases.
“This is a critical stage in establishing Cairns as an AITHM centre,” Professor Wronski said. “It will allow us to build capacity and expand our existing research infrastructure.
“Our aim is not just to contribute to better health in the tropics, but also to establish Cairns as one of the centres of Queensland’s knowledge-based economy, by building high-tech research facilities and continuing to attract world-standard researchers to work here,” he said.
The Institute has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea’s Institute for Medical Research, focussed on tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.
Work on the AITHM building in Townsville is now in the design stage, and there are plans for a $6.3 million facility in the Torres Strait.
“We are now in the pre-design stage of the Cairns project, consulting with the intended users to ensure that the building supports their research as well as it possibly can,” Professor Wronski said.
Issued: March 7, 2014
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