HomeArticlesInvest ArticlesGold Coast forges a future in health and medical research

Gold Coast forges a future in health and medical research

The Daily Telegraph | February 2018

The past decade has seen remarkable progress in the field of medicine.

Australia has had a strong hand in this race but now, more than ever, the attention has turned to the Gold Coast as talent from all over the world relocate to the city to take part in building one of Australia’s most exciting health and knowledge hubs.

Whether making medical discoveries, conducting groundbreaking research or innovating new products in commercial industries, the Gold Coast is home to some of Australia’s top talent.

Professor Mark von Itzstein, director and principal research leader of Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, works in a multimillion-dollar lab finding new ways to fight infections and diseases claiming millions of lives around the world.

In 1993, Professor von Itzstein led the team that discovered the world’s first anti-flu drug, Relenza. It was a major breakthrough. Around the globe, influenza claims the lives of 250,000 people each year. The discovery earnt Professor von Itzstein a cover on Time magazine and, in 2000, he founded Griffith University’s world-leading Institute for Glycomics on the Gold Coast – the only one of its kind in Australia and one of the largest worldwide.

“The institute started off with a handful of researchers, the promise of a new building and a very large vision. Now we have more than 220 researchers and the vision of being a world-leading translational biomedical research institute is very much alive,” Professor von Itzstein says.

“The Gold Coast is now establishing itself as a biomedical research hub. Within the next 10 years I have no doubt that the Gold Coast will be seen as a world-leading research precinct,” Professor von Itzstein says.

Working with his team of scientists, Professor von Itzstein has turned his microscope to fighting cancer, diabetes, arthritis, hendra virus, immune disorders, childhood leukaemia, meningococcal disease and melanoma. Most recently, his team developed a vaccine to fight strep A, which affects 18.1 million people worldwide, as well as a vaccine for malaria that could potentially save around a million people each year, most of them children. Both vaccines are undergoing human clinical trials.

The work being done at the Institute for Glycomics is part of a large network of ground-breaking research in health and medicine taking place on the Gold Coast. The city most famous for its beautiful beaches has the talent to go with it, employing more than 40,000 highly skilled workers in the health and medical sector.

It’s the city’s largest employing sector and investment continues to grow, with more than $5 billion recently committed to support the development of the Health and Knowledge Precinct.

The precinct is home to Gold Coast University Hospital, Private Hospital, Griffith University – ranked in the top 3 per cent of universities globally – and the world-class Menzies Health Institute Queensland, comprising 750 biomedical researchers primarily located in the new $150 million dollar Griffith Health Centre building.

It’s also the site for the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village, which will transform into a $550 million dollar mixed-use community following the Games, including nine hectares of prime greenfield land set aside for health and knowledge-based commercial investment.

In 2019, Griffith University plans to build a multi-million dollar Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT) linking innovators from all walks of life. ADaPT will focus on digitally enabled design, new material development and usage, prototype development and foster skills growth in 3D printing and advanced manufacturing.

Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, Director of Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Centre at Griffith University, believes that is a positive step for his research in microfluidics and nanofluidics.

“We have developed world-class capabilities in micro and nano technologies.”- Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, Director of Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Centre at Griffith University

“The inclusion of this world-leading work within the proposed ADaPT facilities will enable direct and transferable technologies for health care such as a three dimensional cell culture platform for bio printing and implants. We recently developed a unique bioreactor that opens a new avenue to advance a therapy to repair the paralysed spinal cord,” says Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen.

Others leading the way in cutting-edge health research on the Gold Coast include Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Professor Don Staines from Griffith University’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases who recently made a major discovery linking chronic fatigue syndrome with immune system deficiency. Additionally, Professor Saso Ivanovski of MHIQ is using 3D bio-printing in dentistry to replace gum and jaw parts.

The innovation in the health sector extends beyond clinical research at the city’s Health and Knowledge Precinct. Many companies working across these study areas have found great success on the Gold Coast. Brian Siebert of BJP Laboratories, a leading Australian contract manufacturer of conventional and alternative medicines, started the company eight years ago in a small facility with a handful of staff.

In the past five years it has grown from 30 staff to 128 staff working across five buildings. With its state-of-the-art humidity controlled laboratory, BJP manufactures products including tablets, capsules, powders, gels and probiotics for major brands including Blackmores and Swisse along with its own brand, Rochedale. Innovation is the top priority for this fast-growing company.

“We’re in the process of installing a bioreactor plant to produce concentrated strains of probiotics and this will be the first one in Australia. We’ll be producing four times the amount we’re importing now,” Siebert says.

New or old, innovation and discovery is the name of the game on the Gold Coast.

Learn more about health and innovation on the Gold Coast at businessgoldcoast.com

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