JCU to set up $42m tropical disease centre
A $42 million package to help establish a world-class tropical disease centre in North Queensland has become official, with the State Government signing a contract to transfer the funding to James Cook University.
JCU administrators say the on-paper commitment means they can start planning to build the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine in Cairns, Horn Island and Townsville, boosting the university's international reputation.
"It's an important step because it puts it into the budgetary process," said Professor Ian Wronski, pro-vice chancellor of medicine, health and molecular sciences.
"Historically, we'll look back and see this as a step up."
Acting Science Minister David Crisafulli yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with JCU, sealing the $42 million funding package that was promised during the LNP's election campaign.
"This project starts a new chapter in the fight against tropical diseases and builds on JCU's global reputation for research excellence," Mr Crisafulli said.
The institute, which will cost about $117 million, will lead research into the cure and prevention of tropical diseases such as dengue fever, tuberculosis, malaria and rabies.
New buildings will be built in Cairns, Townsville and on Horn Island, where specialists will be trained in disease surveillance and identification.
Prof Wronski said the recent dengue outbreak in Cairns, an increasing number of TB cases emerging from Papua New Guinea and the region's proximity to the Asian tropical zone highlighted the need for such a facility.
"The TB threat is real and present," he said.
"My guess is there'll be cases undetected in the Torres Strait at least.
"This (institute) is an investment in health security and biosecurity. It'll have international implications," Prof Wronski said.
The university's deputy vice-chancellor Dr Stephen Weller said the remaining funding was dependent on the Federal Government.
"We'll certainly be looking at the next federal election," he said.
Design tenders will be called in the first quarter of next year with work expected to start in October.
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