8th June 2004

Plans by Queensland University of Technology to build a new $10.5 million world-class medical engineering research facility at The Prince Charles Hospital have been given the green light, following a $5million injection of state funding.

The new purpose-built facility, which will be a joint initiative of QUT, The Prince Charles Hospital and industry, is planned to augment and accelerate Queensland's leading research into orthopaedics and artificial organs.

Today's announcement of funding under the Queensland Government Smart State Research Facilities Fund will now mean the establishment of a comprehensive suite of research facilities based at one location.

"Clinicians and researchers will be able to undertake integrated research in a large hospital environment for the first time," QUT's Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Mark Pearcy said.

"The centre will include laboratories, medical engineering testing facilities, a skills training environment for orthopaedic surgeons and an artificial organs laboratory.'

Professor Pearcy said, specifically, the new facility would help drive the ongoing development of an innovative biological solution to treat painful arthritic conditions - research that has the potential to enhance the lives of the 50,000 Australians who undergo joint replacement or spinal operations each year.

He said QUT's Orthopaedic Research Group, led by chair and orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Ross Crawford, is focusing on tissue engineering and bone substitution techniques which could ultimately do away with painful joint replacement surgery.

'Hospital surgeons and QUT engineers, biologists, chemists and mathematicians are investigating alternative methods of treating musculoskeletal disorders.

'The collaboration of ideas and skills is an innovative one - this integration of orthopaedic surgeons within an engineering faculty is an Australian-first."

About $4million of QUT, industry and government funding has already been invested in ongoing research with another $500,000 earmarked by industry over the next two years.

While traditional joint replacement is extremely effective, there are still limitations in terms of the potential for the mechanical device to fail.

For this reason, researchers have been investigating alternative treatment methods which include tissue engineering and bone substitution.

The new medical engineering research facility is due to commence construction in 2005.

Media Contacts: Professor Ross Crawford 3350 8481 or Associate Professor John Bell 3864 4298 or Janne Rayner, QUT media 3864 2361

Date: Monday, 7 June 2004

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