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Australia's HMRI Starts Construction on A$90M Research Building

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Australia's Hunter Medical Research Institute has begun construction on a A$90 million ($80.6 million) building designed to consolidate the institute's research programs in a single campus.

The 16,000-square-meter (172,222 square foot) building will house administrators and 450 researchers in research programs that will include information-based medicine, public health, and pregnancy and reproduction. The building allows for up to 500 researchers, and eventually, an additional wing.

HMRI says its new building will include facilities for flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, molecular genetics, as well as mass spectrometry equipment used in proteomics, a central cell culture facility, a new centralized bioresources facility, a dedicated specific pathogen-free facility, a histology suite, and a facility for single nucleotide polymorphism detection and typing.

"A new, dedicated, world-class research facility will help attract leading researchers and clinicians to the region, while collocating many research programs may result in cross-program (and therefore cross-discipline/research focus) collaborations and networks," HMRI spokesman Robbie Macaulay told GenomeWeb Daily News.

HMRI — which cites "the community" as a partner along with the New South Wales Department of Health's Hunter New England Health Services, and the University of Newcastle — currently has 664 researchers, 142 research higher degree or RHD students, and 110 research support staffers. Researchers are employed by HNEH, the university, and the hospital Calvary Mater Newcastle.

The new building will rise within HNEH's Rankin Park campus adjacent to John Hunter Hospital, and accommodate researchers whose work is aligned with the clinical services available at Rankin Park.

About half of HMRI's researchers are now housed at the David Maddison building, which will be shut down in June 2012, after the new building is set to open and researchers now at Maddison relocate.

HMRI's new building is set to be completed in January 2012.

In addition to information-based medicine, public health, and pregnancy and reproduction, the institute also has researchers focused on brain & mental health, cancer, cardiovascular health, and viruses, infection/immunity, vaccines and asthma.

The new building is designed to fulfill the institute's goals of reducing the number of campuses from seven to three — the University of Newcastle, the Rankin Park campus and the Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital — as well as increasing collaboration among researchers, and aligning the research programs with a teaching hospital or university.

More than half the cost of the new building, or A$48.5 million, came from the national government, with another A$23 million coming from the government of New South Wales, and A$14.5 million committed by the University of Newcastle. HMRI has launched a capital campaign to raise the remaining funds needed for the project, Macaulay said.

Not counted in the facility cost is the NSW government's granting of a long-term lease for the HMRI building site, worth A$8 million.

Founded in 1998, HMRI is the third-largest medical research institute in New South Wales based on research dollars.

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