$385 million Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

12 December 2008

Sydney University will create a world-class $385 million biomedical centre for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, after the Australian Government pledged a $95 million contribution through its Higher Education Endowment Fund today.

The $385 million Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease, to be built by 2013, will house close to 100 research groups, enabling them to maximise research potential and creating Australia's single largest clinical trials capacity.

It will aim to conduct internationally significant research, partnering with prestigious institutions in the US, Europe and Asia, and attracting hundreds of world-class clinicians and researchers to Sydney.

Importantly the Centre will engage in translational research - where basic scientific discoveries will be progressed through to new and fundamental advances in treatments and prevention, to influence clinical practice and public health policy throughout Australia and Asia.

The Centre will be located on land acquired by Sydney University in 2007, adjacent to its Camperdown campus and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Sydney University intends to use this land to create a major international biomedical precinct, as part of its broad strategy to expand biomedical and life sciences.

"The Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease represents the first development in Sydney University's plans to create a major international biomedical research and training precinct," Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said. "This precinct will progressively accommodate more than 5,000 researchers and postgraduate students and become one of the world's most intense concentrations of national and international research leaders and partners in health and related fields."

The Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease will be one of the world's first centres to conduct thematic research on the connectivity between obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It will also become one of the first centres dedicated to these inter-related diseases capable of translational research due to its housing of hundreds of specialists of diverse academic backgrounds in the one institution.

The Centre will house high quality facilities for teaching and learning in pharmacology, physiology, medicinal chemistry and other areas of focus, allowing an expansion of undergraduate student numbers in these areas by as much as 50 per cent, due to larger, more efficient teaching spaces.

With the development of the new Centre the University aims to recruit top-quality research students with the goal of doubling the number of PHD students per staff member to reach the levels in leading US and European institutions.

Diabetes is the leading cause of death and disability in Australia and all ageing populations worldwide. In India and China alone, the current cost of diabetes is $6 billion, threatening health sector sustainability. In Australia cardiovascular disease alone is responsible for 39 per cent of deaths and 18 per cent of disability-adjusted life years lost to the Australian community due to ill health.

Dr Spence said the Centre would receive significant investment to give it the best possible resources to tackle the growing global health burden.

"The University and its partners propose to make substantial investments in new staff and facilities to capitalise on the possibilities offered by the Centre, including provision of cutting edge imaging and other facilities such as cardiac and brain MRI, as well as the appointment of additional research leaders in the fields of cardiovascular physiology, vascular biology, obesity and gene regulation and health care delivery research," Dr Spence said.

"The Centre will also facilitate the development of novel undergraduate and postgraduate programs relevant to the treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and we will also initiate an outreach program to enable talented high school students to work with the Centre's researchers,"

The key partners in the Centre will be the University's faculties of Health, Engineering and Science - including its new Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise, and the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre - as well as Sydney medical institutes including the Centenary, Bosch, Heart Research, George and Woolcock Institutes and the Sydney South West Area Health Service.

A major focus for the Centre's national collaboration will be the Baker IDI Institute for Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research in Melbourne, as well as government and industry. The Centre will also establish a small number of intensive institutional collaborations in the US, Europe and Asia, with a particular focus on major collaborations planned with institutions in China and India.

Preliminary talks have been held with a major US university, and existing collaborations with Peking Medical University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Oxford University are expected to be strengthened. The University will also build on its participation in the prestigious European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a flagship of European science for which Australia became an associate member in 2008.

Dr Spence said he was confident the Centre would achieve improved health outcomes in Australia and Asia.

"Through its training, clinical trials and epidemiological activities and through its international network of collaborating institutions, the Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease will assist the region to meet the health challenges posed by the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Dr Spence said.

Contact: Sarah Stock

Phone: 0419 278 715

Email: 372207552f4535045f2f5f1622372a18363461145047492e04