Labor promises $60m for St Vincent’s Hospital medical technology centre

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Labor has promised one-third of the funding needed to build a $180 million centre for cutting-edge new medical technologies at St Vincent’s Hospital if elected.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews said the biomedical engineering centre would be the first of its type in Australia and build on work already under way by partners includingthe Bionics Institute and Melbourne, Swinburne and Wollongong universities.

St Vincent’s Hospital director of orthopaedics Peter Choong said the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery would allow experts to work closely with patients on the same site.

Projects included a recent world-first procedure to build a man a new heel bone using 3D printing, preventing him losing part of that leg to cancer.

Research was also under way on an implant to warn epileptic patients of an imminent seizure and deliver medication, he said.

Mr Andrews said a Labor state government would commit $60 million for the centre over four years,  and this would need to be matched by the federal government.

He said if Labor  were elected he would seek to meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss the project.

“The case is too compelling and I’m certain [the] Prime Minister and his government would be a very keen partner in such a visionary project,” he said.

The remaining $60 million contribution would come from the centre’s 10 partners, which have already raised $30 million.

Mr Andrews said the centre would create more than 1000 construction jobs and support “up to 10,000 jobs created over the next 15 years in this new sector”.

He said the state government was not being asked to provide recurrent funding for the centre, which would receive income from grants and partner institutions.

A spokesman for Health Minister David Davis would not commit to matching Labor’s $60 million promise for the centre.

“A number of significant medical research projects are currently under consideration,” he said.

“The Coalition has increased funding for medical research including a number of key capital projects such as the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre.”

Mr Davis’s spokesman also disputed Labor’s ability to attract federal funding for the project.

“Daniel Andrews has no credibility when it comes to funding agreements with the Commonwealth, given his stated intention to tear up the east-west contract and see Victoria lose $1.5 billion.”

Partners behind the project said the state government had provided more than $600,000 to complete a full business case and preliminary designs, and they were now “poised to take the next step together with state and federal government”.

Professor Choong said the centre would encourage collaboration  among disciplines that had historically been separate, such as engineering, medicine and biological sciences.

Partners in the centre said it would drive the commercialisation of “next-generation, high-value bio-engineering products”, securing a  large share of a burgeoning global market.

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