15 July 2020
ADELAIDE (Australia) – Adelaide’s ambitious bid to become an acclaimed international hub of advanced medical care and research has taken a leap forward with construction starting on the site for the southern hemisphere’s first proton therapy unit.
The device using proton beams capable of pulverizing inoperable cancer tumors – such as those on the spine or brain without damaging surrounding tissue – will treat more than 700 patients a year, about half of them children and many expected to be from neighboring nations.
The 12-storey, $500 million Australian Bragg Centre will house around 400 researchers and also be home to the new $80 million SAiGEN Cancer Institute’s genomic and immunotherapy facility.
It joins a sparkling new multi-billion dollar health and biomedical neighborhood rising by the Torrens River in the city’s CBD over the past decade now known as Adelaide BioMed City.
It includes the $2.4 billion, 800-bed Royal Adelaide Hospital, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute with more than 800 researchers, the $246 million University of Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences Building and the $247 million University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute.
This collaborative group of clinical, research and education institutions will be joined by a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital now being planned. All are within walking distance or free tram ride of the city’s major cultural, shopping, sports and dining precincts and neighboring Adelaide Convention Centre.
UniSA Professor of Medical Radiation Eva Bezak said the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy will consolidate Adelaide’s position as the leading biomedical science cluster south of the equator, while Royal Adelaide Hospital Director of Radiation Oncology Associate Professor Michael Penniment notes it will become a magnet for proton therapy for much of the Asia-Pacific region.
Adelaide BioMed City is creating wealth as well as good health – the latest tower due for completion in 2023 will create about 1000 building jobs and generate an estimated $1 billion in economic activity during construction.
The first patients are expected within 18 months of the building’s completion, treated by the Pro Tom Radiance 300 proton unit housed deep below ground in a three story bunker. It means patients will no longer need to travel overseas for the lifesaving treatment, paying around $40,000 compared to around $250,000 in the United States.
Minister for Trade and Investment David Ridgway said the project will bolster the state’s international credentials while stimulating the economy and creating jobs in the wake of COVID-19.
“This significant development will put SA on the map as a pioneer in world-leading, lifesaving proton therapy cancer treatment,” Minister Ridgway said.
The convergence of clinical, research and education facilities in the precinct is turbocharging the medical sector in everything from start-up biomed firms to clinical trials, such as one now screening volunteers to join a planned COVID-19 vaccine trial at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH).
Another example is the decision by US-based biopharmaceutical company, Glyscend Therapeutics, to use RAH and University of Adelaide researchers to develop a pill that mimics the effect of gastric bypass surgery to effectively cure type 2 diabetes.
The firm has attracted $29 million from investors to develop the technology which improves sugar control in patients by diverting food from the upper gastrointestinal tract, but without the risk of the invasive bypass surgery. Human trials are expected in Adelaide next year.
Glyscend chief executive Dr Ashish Nimgaonkar said: “The world class expertise and facilities, coupled with an attractive research and development ecosystem are why we intend to conduct our first-in-human trials in Adelaide.”
The drive for innovation fueled by support for the biomed sector is paying diverse dividends, such as start-up company Fusetec is 3D printing precision replica human body part for medical students around the world to practice on in place of cadavers.
While the sector is delivering jobs and economic returns, for parents around Australia and beyond in the near future the option of a proton therapy blast to cure their child of cancer will be priceless.
Released for the SA Department of Trade and Investment
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