New biomedical research center to be built in Victoria

After being approved by the Victorian state government and receiving a building permit from the Yarra City Council, construction on a $207 million healthcare research center in Melbourne's Biomedical Precinct will begin in the coming months.

The 11-storey Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD), to be built on the site of St Vincent’s Hospital’s former Aikenhead building in Fitzroy on the Melbourne CBD fringe, it will focus on finding medical solutions for chronic illnesses.

While the diagnostic standard RT-PCR test, it is too slow for large-scale routine surveillance screening and quarantine applications. Meanwhile, rapid antigen tests (RAT) are more convenient to use, but they are insufficiently sensitive in detecting the virus in infected people who are contagious but show no symptoms.

It will form part of the sprawling Melbourne Biomedical Precinct running from East Melbourne to Parkville in the north, one of the leading precincts of its kind in the world, bringing together hospitals, research institutes, healthcare companies and universities.

Adelaide’s $3.6 billion BioMed City Innovation District and Perth’s Murdoch Precinct are other examples in Australia.

The Victorian and Commonwealth governments, St Vincent's Health Australia, the nine project partners (including the universities of Melbourne, RMIT, Swinburne, and Wollongong), and philanthropic donations will all contribute to the centre's construction.

It will replace an existing research hub that has been operating on a smaller scale at St Vincent's Fitzroy campus for the past decade, and it comes amid a wave of investment in new healthcare facilities in Australia, ranging from private hospitals to laboratories and life science centres.

The centre will include:

  • 3D-printing laboratories

  • a human kinetics lab

  • Special insulated rooms that enable the development of sensitive hearing and vision technologies

  • Engineering workshops to produce medical device prototypes

  • Robotics that can be used to fast-track clinical trials

  • A collaborative spaces for students and researchers.

It will also house a dedicated teaching facility to focused on educating future biomedical research leaders and incorporating multiple seminar and tutorial rooms, a clinical simulation laboratory, and a large lecture theatre over two levels that can host national and international conferences and major events.

The centre is expected to be completed by 2024.