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22 January 2004

A world-leading Brain Institute, which will research diseases such as Alzheimer's and depression, is to be built at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Premier & Trade
The Hon. Peter Beattie MP
22 January 2004

BRISBANE: A world-leading Brain Institute, which will research diseases such as Alzheimer's and depression, is to be built at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Premier Peter Beattie has announced the $60 million complex, to be headed by Professor Perry Bartlett, will be the first institute in the world set up specifically to focus on understanding how the brain works.

"Understanding the mechanisms controlling brain functions is regarded as the last great frontier in science," Mr Beattie said.

"This crucial work will put the Smart State's top-class research in the global spotlight.

"This Institute will create an international 'brains trust' in Queensland. Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute will aim to find cures and ways of alleviating brain-related illnesses and disorders."

Mr Beattie said his government will invest $20 million in a joint company with UQ which will run the new facility. UQ and a philanthropic organisation will each match the Government's contribution.

The Institute will house 240 scientists and 60 other staff, and construction will start in early 2005.

"Brain related disorders account for about 45% of illnesses in older Australians," Mr Beattie said.

"One in four Queenslanders over 80, and one in 20 Queenslanders aged 75 - 79 suffer from dementia. UQ estimates reducing learning and memory loss among seniors could slash nursing home admissions by up to 50%.

"As our population ages, research into brain diseases and illness associated with the ageing process become even more important.

"If the Queensland Brain Institute can find ways of preventing or better treating mental illnesses such as dementia, this will be of enormous social and economic benefit not just for Queensland but the rest of the world.

"During 1999-2000, Australia spent $2.6b dollars to treat mental health conditions. Diseases like Alzheimer's and depression are estimated to cost the United States economy more than $50b each year."

Mr Beattie said researchers at the new Queensland Brain Institute would join forces with those at UQ's Institute of Molecular Biosciences and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to conduct the most cutting-edge brain research anywhere in the world.

"These three Smart State Institutes will together house more than 1,000 scientists, making the Queensland Bioscience Precinct the world's leader in research critical mass," Mr Beattie said.

"This will create a bioscience powerhouse that will stand shoulder to shoulder with international bio-scientific research precincts in San Diego, San Francisco and Boston."

Mr Beattie said the new Institute would build upon the neuroscientific breakthroughs already accomplished by UQ scientists.

"Over the past decade UQ has amassed the biggest, most diverse and most successful population of neuroscientists in Australia," Mr Beattie said.

"Professor Bartlett is a world-class scientist whose research into the adult brain's ability to regenerate neurons has been heralded as the key to developing new treatments for mental and brain diseases in older people.

"Professor Bartlett has been on board for 14 months and has already recruited 60 new researchers, including relocating his former neuroscience team of 15 from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.

"He's also recruited 15 researchers the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, and five each from Harvard and Stanford universities.

"The Queensland Brain Institute will give our world-class scientists the facilities they deserve and an un-matched opportunity to tackle an increasing global medical problem."