Work starts on LIMS

Posted on March 11, 2011

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‘This is a new institute for the country … a powerhouse in terms of driving change right through Australia.’

With those words Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr launched building works on the $94 million La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in February, a world-class interdisciplinary research facility which builds on the University’s reputation for excellence in biological sciences.

Senator Carr said the Government saw LIMS as a national hub for growing Australian industries. It was ‘particularly proud of this project because it demonstrates why it is so important support the pursuit of excellence in universities and research institutions’.

‘La Trobe University has shown empirically that you are among the best in the country when it comes to biological sciences, nanotechnology, biochemistry and cell biology. 

‘Molecular sciences, including biotechnology, offer new hope for the sick and new opportunities for Australian business. The new Institute will allow the talented researchers of La Trobe University to work directly with industry and researchers in other institutions to realise that potential.’

As a small nation, Senator Carr said Australia had to concentrate its research effort. ‘Outstanding researchers have the right to demand outstanding research infrastructure.’

He said the project was ‘extraordinarily collaborative’, opening up facilities to other scholars and students of many disciplines, as well as ‘a whole new era for R&D and industry collaboration by providing  opportunities for the next generation of innovators’.

‘It’s about engagement, because it also opens the doors of the University to the wider community, and helps sustain the communities that sustain you,’ Senator Carr said.

The new Institute results from the vision and long-term academic leadership of La Trobe biochemist Professor Nick Hoogenraad.  It was brought to fruition through the drive and determination of the new Vice-Chancellor, Paul Johnson and his team, with strong financial support from the Federal Government and the backing of local government and community leaders.

Community outreach and science education promotion will be an integral part of LIMS. School students from year nine onwards will be encouraged to work at the Institute alongside undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

‘La Trobe,’ said Senator Carr, ‘has a proud reputation for nurturing talented secondary school students who want to make a difference through science and research.

‘The University’s outreach program has gone from a single school two years ago to more than ten schools this year, and will continue to grow exponentially once the new Institute opens.

‘La Trobe will also use the new facilities to encourage public awareness of science, and receive in exchange direct input from the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of their work.’

Vice-Chancellor Johnson said LIMS provides a new approach and focus to critical biosciences work on human diseases including cancer, malaria and autoimmune diseases and furthers the University’s contribution to an economically significant science precinct in Melbourne’s north.

‘It will also take a leadership role in promoting science to students at all levels of education through an expanded program involving more than 2,500 secondary school students across the north of Melbourne.’

At least 220 extra research positions will be available once the building is open and LIMS is expected to generate $15 million in research income annually.

There are three levels of teaching laboratories, support spaces and a ground-level lecture theatre. The upper three levels include research laboratories and office space.

The building, of 11,000 square metres on six levels, is expected to be completed in late 2012. Cleverly designed inter-connected glazed spaces will bring science into the public eye for those visiting the Institute.

Professor Hoogenraad, Executive Director of LIMS, said world-class research by many people at La Trobe had been the impetus for the establishment of LIMS.

‘It is a tremendously exciting prospect to combine the teaching of molecular sciences with this outstanding new research activity – and to do this in an integrated way that brings the excitement and importance of science into secondary schools for the next generation of scientists.’

The futuristic LIMS complex has been designed by the architectural group, Lyons, in a radical break from the traditional appearance of buildings on the Melbourne campus. The $66 million construction contract has been awarded to Watpac, one of Australia’s leading civil and mining construction and property developers.

‘I am very pleased Watpac will be a major part of realising La Trobe University’s vision of becoming a world leader in molecular science research,’ said Watpac Managing Director, Greg Kempton.
 

* The Australian Government has invested $64 million in the new building through its Education Investment Fund, part of Building the Education Revolution. It has contributed a further $20 million for major laboratory upgrades in the adjoining science complex which links to the new facility.