HomeArticlesBusiness & InvestHealthStudyA Commonwealth of talent at Health and Knowledge Precinct
|Associate Professor Vallipuram Muthukkumarasamy

A Commonwealth of talent at Health and Knowledge Precinct

Kathy Kruger | March 2018

As the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games continue, there’ll be cheers for a host of countries coming from the diverse group of researchers, academics, clinicians, workers and students that make up the deep talent pool of the Gold Coast Health & Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP).

We profile just some of the amazing wealth of talent from the Commonwealth.

Already employing almost 10,000 people, including 1,000 researchers, and catering to nearly 20,000 students, the GCHKP will leverage existing expertise to lure even more local and international talent, and is set to support 26,000 jobs and generate $2.9 billion for the Gold Coast economy by completion.

The hub has attracted staff and students from across the globe in health, medicine, education, science, engineering and technology, lured by the city’s lifestyle and the chance to work and study in such a dynamic location.

Supported by $5 billion in health, education and transport infrastructure and equipped with ultra-high speed fibre optic Internet, the GCHKP is already home to the world-class Griffith University, co-located with the $1.76 billion Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH), and the new Gold Coast Private Hospital.

The GC2018 Athletes Village will be transformed into a vibrant $550 million mixed-use community in which to live, work and learn as the next exciting stage of development, with over nine hectares available for commercial investment to create the jobs of the future.

Leading investment attraction into the Precinct is GCHKP Project Director Di Dixon, who arrived on the Gold Coast in 2001 from England, seeking to trade her London lifestyle for a sea-change down under.

Quickly landing a job, the Gold Coast fast became her home and she hasn’t looked back. She’s been involved in developing the GCHKP concept since inception, and says momentum is building into the Post Games period.

“It’s exciting to see how much has developed already and the Games will supercharge the next stage,” Dixon says.

“Already a quarter of available lots are earmarked for developments worth almost $200 million, set to commence from January 2019.”

“From additive manufacturing and the development of exciting new high-tech materials, to drug discovery, medical imaging and biomedical devices, cyber security and big data, and new applications for artificial intelligence in healthcare, the Precinct represents a smart investment in Australia’s fastest growing major city.”

The GCHKP is a partnership between City of Gold Coast, Gold Coast Health, Griffith University and the Queensland Government.

Also arriving on the Gold Coast from England, where he was Chief Executive of the Doncaster and Bassetlaw National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, Ron Calvert was quick to take up the GCHKP vision when he commenced as Gold Coast Health Chief Executive in 2012.

Calvert oversaw the complex move into the state-of-the-art GCUH in 2013, and sees the significant benefits of co-location.

“It’s that synergy between health professionals, academics and industrial researchers that’s going to create world-class healthcare for us.”

Griffith University Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ned Pankhurst is the university’s driving force behind the GCHKP.

Hailing from across the ditch, Professor Pankhurst completed his PhD studies exploring freshwater eels, before heading to Canada for further research in fish endocrinology, returning to New Zealand and then arriving in Australia to take up a position in the School of Aquaculture at the University of Tasmania in 1994.

Joining Griffith in 2006, where he leads the university’s research program and heads up the Gold Coast campus, Professor Pankhurst describes the unique conditions within the GCHKP as ‘a perfect storm of innovation’.

“You don’t get many opportunities like this in a lifetime,” Professor Pankhurst enthuses.

“We have a truly wonderful opportunity to lead innovation and high technology industries for Australia and the world.”

Research talent

Fellow Kiwi, Professor Nigel McMillan is a cancer biologist whose research, as part of Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland, focuses on the infectious causes of cancer to develop novel gene treatments.

McMillan also heads the Gold Coast Biobank, a purpose-designed bio-storage facility bridging the gap in translational clinical research. A first for the Southern Hemisphere, GCBiobank recently installed an automated bio-storage, the Arktic, capable of catering for a library of up to 100,000 specimens, supporting the GCHKP’s growing reputation in clinical trials.

The health field is a happy hunting ground for expats seeking Gold Coast careers, with Griffith also employing Professor David Ellwood as Head of School of Medicine; Professor Robert M Love as Dean and Head of School of Dentistry and Oral Health; and Professor Andrew Davey as Head of School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, all originally from England.

Professor Suresh Mahalingham is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and Principal Research Leader at the GCHKP’s flagship research centre, the Institute for Glycomics.

After undergraduate studies in his home country Malaysia, he did his PhD in viral immunology at the Australian National University and is now an international expert in mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River fever and the Zika virus.

Together with the Institute’s Dr Lara Herrero, he’s recently licensed a commercial therapeutic treatment for arthritic symptoms caused by Ross River fever.

Ugandan PhD student Aloysious Ssemaganda is also at the Institute for Glycomics, as a member of Principal Research Leader Professor Michael Good’s team, who have a world-first blood-stage whole parasite malaria vaccine in human clinical trials.

Passionate about tackling a disease that claims thousands of young lives each year in his home country – malaria kills one child every two minutes in Africa – Ssemaganda is involved in a clinical trial in Uganda in parallel with trials underway in the GCHKP.

Professor Randy Bindra, a leading hand and wrist surgeon at the Gold Coast University Hospital, hails from India’s largest city Mumbai and came to Australia via the UK and the US.

He’s now pioneering orthopaedic clinical trials of regenerative medicine to regrow nerve and ligament tissue, including using the latest in 3D biomedical printing technology.

3D printing expert and industrial designer Dr Sam Canning enjoyed a design career highlight with his creation of the world’s first full-length 3D printed dress, comprising up 30,000 individual pieces and taking more than 400 painstaking hours to design.

From his beginnings as a hand French polisher restoring antiques in England – using centuries old techniques, he developed a keen love of craftsmanship and has taken this into the digital age.

“I was intrigued by furniture that had been cut so accurately, so I started to look into how it had been made and that’s when I came across digital technology,” Dr Canning says.

“From there I became interested in industrial design, which led me eventually to fashion.”

“3D printing really does change the way we work and what is possible.”

From modern design technology to indigenous Australian rock art heritage, Professor Paul Taçon, originally from Ontario, Canada, holds a highly prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowship and is Griffith University’s Chair of Rock Art.

Looking to the future, Sri Lankan born doctor Dinesh Palipana hopes a successful treatment for spinal cord injury may come out of the GCHKP hub, perhaps within the next 10 years.

Queensland’s first quadriplegic doctor, who works at GCUH, was injured in a car accident part way through his Griffith medical degree, later returning to complete his studies in an inspirational story of courage.

He’s now working with Griffith biomechanical scientists and engineers on novel neuro-musculoskeletal rehabilitation research involving a ‘thought control’ approach to stimulate neural pathways and movement.

He’s also involved in parallel research at Griffith on a regenerative medicine treatment to regrow nerve bridges to repair damaged spinal cords, which continues on from the pioneering work of 2017 Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim.

“I’m just really lucky to be well-positioned here where it’s all happening and I want to be involved as much as possible as a doctor and a potential scientist,” Dr Palipana says.

“It’s my university, my hospital, my city – it’s just really nice to be a part of that.”

And fellow Sri-Lankan, Associate Professor Vallipuram Muthukkumarasamy is a leading expert in cyber security, heading up network security research at Griffith’s Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems – that’s when he’s not volunteering at GC2018.

After studies in Sri Lanka, ‘Muthu’ obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge in the UK, and is now also Deputy Head of Griffith’s highly-ranked School of Information and Communications Technology.

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