Health sciences hub vision for Townsville

Date published: 24 November 2020

Townsville could become the largest regional health sciences hub in Australia, attracting highly-skilled doctors and medical researchers to North Queensland.

Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine Director Professor Louis Schofield today briefed Townsville City Council on his vision and garnering support for a strategically-positioned tropical health sciences hub.

Prof Schofield, who heads the tropical health research institute at JCU, employing health and medical researchers, and supports the research of 550 health professionals across North Queensland, said Townsville city leaders were a vital support base for sharing ideas.

Prof Schofield, who is developing a vaccine for malaria, said extending the sciences to include biotechnology industries in North Queensland would improve the health and wealth of people living in the region.

“The research being done here is important for the tropics, but it is also relevant to all Australians,” Prof Schofield said.

“Our infectious diseases modelling team has contributed to informing the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 in relation to flattening the curve, schools re-opening, and border closures.

“These health and medical science knowledge hubs, which include biotechnology and industry development, are done really well in major capital cities around Australia, but Townsville is ready now to have one here in regional Australia.

“North Queensland has worked really hard on building its health and medical science services over the past 20 years and we are ready to embrace a health sciences knowledge economy.”

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the city was well-positioned to become an international leader in tropical health services.

“With northern Australia’s largest tertiary hospital, an internationally renowned university and a growing health and knowledge precinct, TropiQ, Townsville has a strong foundation already in-place,” Cr Hill said.

“Modelling shows that more than half the world’s population will live in the tropical zone by 2050 and this presents unique health challenges.

“Positioning our city as a tropical health sciences hub is a win-win – there are the health outcomes as well as economic benefit to the community.

“That’s why Townsville City Council is proud to partner with JCU and the Townsville Hospital and Health Service through TropiQ to help attract talent from around the world and secure investment.”

Prof Schofield thanked Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill for her ongoing support and is also meeting with State and Federal politicians in a bid to seek continued support for the Institute, and to share his vision in leading a health and medical science industry hub in the region.

The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine plays a vital role in Australia’s health security infrastructure, monitoring against biological and infection risk across Australia’s far northern border. It has attracted funding of over $172 million over the past seven years, much invested into the local economy.

The Institute also has a portfolio of eight vaccines under development and has partnered with Queensland Health to help transform health delivery with over $75 million of Australian Government funds invested into Telehealth.