A donation by one of Western Australia’s most successful businessmen will help fund a new state-of-the-art $360million research precinct, which will boost the development of cures for deadly and chronically debilitating illnesses.
Ralph Sarich’s $20million donation is the largest philanthropic donation ever made in WA and will help develop the new centre of research excellence at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre in Nedlands.
Health Minister Jim McGinty thanked Mr Sarich for his extremely generous contribution and urged other financially successful Western Australians to contribute to the development of world class facilities for the State.
“Mr Sarich can be proud that he has contributed to a new research precinct which will enable more Western Australians to benefit from breakthroughs in treating cancer, heart disease and other major childhood and adult diseases,” Mr McGinty said.
“Many Western Australians have done extremely well financially in recent years and it is great to see people like Mr Sarich making such an enormous contribution and helping projects like this get off the ground.
“WA has a long and proud tradition of excellence in medical research. We are home to two Nobel medicine laureates and some of Australia’s brightest scientific minds. This new research precinct is set to rival the best in the world. I believe it will serve as a beacon attracting the best scientists and researchers from across Australia and beyond to Perth.
“The precinct will house more than 1,500 medical and scientific researchers from the Lions Eye Institute, the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research (TICHR), the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR), The University of Western Australia (UWA) and the State pathology testing service, PathWest.
“It will be built alongside the existing Lions Eye Institute facility and Perth’s new ‘super hospital’ comprising Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the planned new children and women’s hospitals, ensuring patients benefit from any medical breakthroughs as early as possible.
“It is fantastic to see all these great organisations working together to create this new precinct, which will undertake world-class medical research work.”
Construction of the first of the new buildings - a $100million landmark centre for the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, designed by architects Hames Sharley and $71million state-of-the-art laboratories for PathWest, designed by JCY architects - will start in early 2009 and is scheduled for completion in 2011. A new $40million neurosciences research facility will also be built during this time, with $20million funding provided by Perth businessman Ralph Sarich. Once complete, work will begin on a new $150million building for the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
The research precinct is the culmination of 10 years of planning by staff at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WAIMR and UWA. Funding for the project, which is expected to cost in the region of $360million over the next eight years, is being provided by the State Government, the Australian Federal Government, WAIMR, UWA, TICHR and private benefactors. The State Government has committed $126million towards the project.
Director of the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research Professor Peter Klinken said co-location of the facilities offered many advantages.
“The opportunity this precinct presents for the State’s researchers and the wider community is extraordinary and will ensure Western Australians are first in line to enjoy the health benefits of world-class medical research breakthroughs made in their own backyard,” Professor Klinken said.
Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia Professor Alan Robson said the university wholeheartedly supported the development program.
“This is a vital step in the history of not only the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, but also UWA and importantly the future of medical research in WA,” Professor Robson said.
“This development plan will ensure that UWA and collaborating research institutions attract the world’s brightest medical researchers to the State for the benefit of the community.”
Professor Robson said UWA had contributed the land for the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre more than 50 years ago, and had an established teaching and research presence on the site to complement and enhance the provision of medical treatment. The redevelopment of the site as the central hub for the teaching of medicine and related sciences had prompted the university to invest millions of dollars in new infrastructure and facilities.
Perth businessman Ralph Sarich said he was pleased to see the project taking shape.
“I am delighted to be able to contribute to the development of this world-class research precinct,” Mr Sarich said.
“My contribution will fund a major new neurosciences research facility, which will be tasked with finding new treatments for a host of conditions including head injuries, brain tumours, epilepsy and spinal problems. It will also work to address the heavy burden of Alzheimer's disease that affects our community today.”
Professor Fiona Stanley, director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, said the research facilities would have close links with hospital staff.
“Moving to the research precinct will be important for our institute, so that we retain our close relationships with the major teaching hospitals to ensure that research can both inform and respond to clinical needs,” Professor Stanley said.
“It is also very exciting to have such a large number of researchers working in close proximity who are all dedicated to improving the health and well-being of our community."
Professor Ian Constable, managing director of the Lions Eye Institute, which is the largest eye research institute in the southern hemisphere, said the precinct would help strengthen medical research in WA.
“As an established medical research institute at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, the Lions Eye Institute applauds this landmark research development by the State and Federal governments, The University of Western Australia and private donors.”
Director of PathWest at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre Dr David Smith also welcomed the creation of the new centre of excellence.
“PathWest is delighted to be part of this exciting new development,” Dr Smith said.
“Our new laboratories will deliver state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities for patients at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and throughout the State, as well as linking with UWA and the other institutions to support cutting edge research and teaching. It will enable us to continue to provide the highest levels of service to all Western Australians well into the future.”
Director of Research at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Professor Peter Thompson said the precinct was great news for Western Australians.
“These researchers are at the very cutting edge of medicine,” Professor Thompson said.
“Being able to work alongside them will ensure our patients benefit from any medical breakthroughs at the very earliest opportunity.”
The QEII precinct will complement new research facilities being built alongside the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch, including a second $83million WAIMR facility.
Mr McGinty said the Carpenter Government was spending $5billion building and re-building health facilities the length and breadth of the State - the biggest investment in healthcare in WA’s history.
“Along with construction of the research precinct at QEII, work will also begin next year on a $450million redevelopment of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital,” he said.
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