Obesity centre behind major staff expansion

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The University of Sydney is embarking on one of its largest ever recruitment drives in the wake of recent federal funding for an international centre of expertise in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The $385 million biomedical centre, called the Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease,will house close to 100 research groups, enabling them to maximise research potential and creating Australia’s single largest clinical trials capacity.

The university expects to attract some of the world’s leading experts in these areas, who will initially join existing faculties and research teams on campus while the new facility is being constructed.

“In the first phase the University will be recruiting an additional 330 staff and 280 additional students to fill positions at the centre, with other staff and students coming from existing expertise and teams already on campus,” said Professor Don Nutbeam, University Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

“This is the largest ever single recruitment drive the University has undertaken for a major project. In staff numbers alone it represents a current increase of approximately 10 per cent on the University of Sydney’s current full-time staff numbers. The search will be international, and will attract world leaders in the areas of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Eventually the 35,000m2 centre, located between the University of Sydney and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in Camperdown, will accommodate more than 5,000 researchers and postgraduate students.

“It will be one of the world’s most intense concentrations of national and international research leaders and partners in health and related fields,” said David Cook, Professor of Physiology and Associate Dean (Finance) in the Faculty of Medicine.

The centre will house a critical mass of researchers from diverse but interrelated fields - from the enabling sciences (chemistry, physics and mathematics) through to biomedical, clinical and population sciences. The cross-collaborations that will be fostered in such a facility are expected to lead to not just new interventions and treatments, but significant advances in the translation of basic research into both clinical practice and public policy.

With over one sixth of the centre’s space devoted to teaching facilities, a major emphasis will be on recruiting top students to its cross-disciplinary teaching program, particularly in the areas of pharmacology, cell biology, physiology and pathology.

“Post-graduate research students will benefit greatly from working in an environment where they can interact with those developing new therapies as well as those working to ensure that new therapies are applied appropriately in practice and policy,” Professor Cook commented.

The proposed doubling of the number of PhD students per staff member will bring the centre up to levels achieved in leading US and European institutions.

The Australian Government has pledged a $95 million contribution to the centre through its Higher Education Endowment Fund, with additional funds coming from the University of Sydney, partner institutes, philanthropic donations and an anticipated commitment from the NSW government.

Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease: some quick facts

These three chronic conditions are among the most important health problems facing Australia.

They are intimately related, with obesity causing diabetes and diabetes causing a range of cardiac and vascular disease.

In Australia cardiovascular disease alone is responsible for 39 per cent of deaths and 18 per cent of disability-adjusted life years lost to the Australian community due to ill health.

The escalating costs of these diseases (diabetes costs an estimated $6 billion per annum) threatens the sustainability of the health system.

They are also the leading cause of death and disability in all rapidly ageing populations worldwide, including China and India.

Collectively they challenge the length and quality of life for all Australians, with Indigenous Australians and those living in rural or remote regions worst affected.



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