Eight years after it was first mooted, the UTAS Medical Science Precinct launches Tasmania into the forefront of medical research and education, thanks to a $20+ million booster shot of philanthropic giving.
Hobart’s recently opened UTAS Medical Science Precinct is part of a grand vision for a vibrant new heart for Tasmania’s capital, which will see the linking of the $120 million Melville Street student accommodation project, the $45 million Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the Academy of Creative Industries and Performing Arts project, co-located with the Theatre Royal.
The new Precinct, heralded by Hobart’s iconic MS1 and MS2 buildings, is now home to a number of world-class institutions and teaching facilities including the Menzies Research Institute, UTAS Faculty of Health and UTAS’s School of Health Sciences Hobart Domain Nursing Campus.
“We have a constellation of truly outstanding research and teaching activities happening within the Medical Science Precinct,” University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said.
“These activities are global in both standard and scope.
“It is fitting that these elements should be afforded a single identity which is both immediately powerful and full of promise for the future.”
The Precinct was made possible by funding from the Australian Federal Government through the Health and Hospitals Fund ($44.7 million), the Capital Development Pool grant ($12 million) and the Better Universities Renewal Fund ($11.5 million).
The Tasmanian State Government contributed $24 million in funding and in-kind support, and The University of Tasmania contributed $34 million.
Private donors and philanthropic organisations have contributed a total of $21.5m to the project.
Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies contributed $10 million to the Precinct and stimulated an additional $10 million in matched funding from other philanthropists.
Further contributors include $2 million from wotif.com founder Graeme Wood AM, donations from The Rockefeller Family, and funding from the UTAS Foundation through the Estate of Muriel Horsfall, a mathematics educator who spent the latter part of her life in Tasmania until her death in 2009, aged 102.
The Precinct is still aiming to raise $700,000 by the end of May towards the $90 million project, following a recent donation of $500,000 from The Select Foundation.
The striking exterior design, influenced by cell structures and the Hobart landscape, is iconic to the medical research community. The Royal Hobart Hospital is adjacent to the Precinct.
The first stage building (MS1) was completed in 2009, and MS2 completed recently.
Its environmentally friendly attributes, including an 80,000-litre rainwater tank and energy efficient lighting with sensor activation, has secured it a 5-Star Green Star rating.
“The Medical Science Precinct doesn’t just represent the good work we already do within Menzies and Faculty of Health as health and medical research and teaching organisations,” Menzies Director Professor Tom Marwick said.
“It captures the potential of what we can do when we bring world-class teachers and researchers together with talented students, which ultimately will deliver benefit to our communities.
“The Precinct would not have been possible without the support and partnership of the Federal Government, State Government and contributions from philanthropic organisations and private donors who share our vision.”
Equipping Tasmania for an aging population
Faculty of Health Dean Professor Denise Fassett said teaching and research in health and medicine was central not only to the university’s future, but to Tasmanians more broadly.
“By the aged care industry’s own figures, the 7000-strong workforce in Tasmania will need to double or treble heading towards 2050,” she said. “UTAS is well placed to produce that workforce for the future.”
The launch of the Precinct also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania.
The Institute has developed an international reputation in ground-breaking research that focuses on preventing a range of diseases including arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes type-2, osteoporosis, mental health, obesity and dementia.
They carry out studies across Australia and collaborate with interstate and international researchers.
UTAS’s Faculty of Health continues to develop an academic health science culture, carrying out world-class research including the School of Medicine’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre.
The Centre recently developed the University’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Understanding Dementia.
The course attracted almost 10,000 participants world-wide and boasted a startlingly high completion rate compared to global benchmarks.
Support the development of medical research and education in Tasmania
For more information, or to support the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania Stage II Campaign, visit www.utas.edu.au/foundation, or contact Teisha Archer (Institute Advancement Manager – Menzies Research Institute Tasmania) on (03) 6226 4236 or [email protected].
This article first appeared in GrassROOTS Magazine, a publication from Research Australia, an independent alliance of organisations and supporters advocating for health and medical research in Australia.