Bio21 Australia Limited, a NFP company limited by guarantee, was established in 2001 as an initiative of the three Founding Members, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Health and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and the State Government of Victoria to support the development of Victoria’s fledgling biotechnology industry.
Initial Victorian Government investment was under the STI (Science Technology Infrastructure) Initiative Round 1, which provided funding to priority industry sectors working on new activities aimed at building Victoria’s science, technology and innovation base, encouraging collaboration, and attracting investment from other sources.
Over the period 2002-2006, the Victorian Government co-invested in what became known as “The Bio21 Project” providing support for two major developments, the Bio21 Institute and the refitted Joint Proteomics Facility, and for six collaborative infrastructure projects.
Although the original intent for the company was to support the commercialisation efforts of the Founding Members. A turning point for the organisation came, in 2002, when it was recognised that its goals around commercialisation and enhanced collaboration were not being fully realised.
Although individual research organisations collaborated at the scientist to scientist level, they were observed to only collaborate occasionally at an institutional level. It was thought that if the member organisation could work more productively together it would further strengthen Victoria’s pre-eminent reputation in medical research and help deliver the State Government’s Biotechnology Strategic Plan. A restructure of the Board and management in late 2002 saw a shift in focus and development of collaboration on a variety of levels with the result being formation of a genuine research cluster through the recruitment of more Members, the total of which had reached 21 by 2012.
Over time the company also developed a number of state-wide collaborative programs, for instance: in education, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP); in research infrastructure, the Victorian Platform Technology Network (VPTN). The Cluster became well known for stimulating discussion and planning for new areas of collaborative endeavour, via its regular series of forums, symposia and workshops.
On 17 March 2014, the Company took the next step in its evolution with the launch of Biomedical Research Victoria, the state-wide peak body representing the heart of Australia’s biomedical research. The name change emphasised an expanded vision that embraces the wider Victorian biomedical research community and seeks to support biomedical research by providing a collective voice for advocacy and promoting interactions that nurture collaboration and innovation.
Biomedical Research Victoria represents the teaching hospitals, universities, research institutions, CSIRO and other organisations whose scientists have contributed to improving the lives of millions of people and whose internationally-recognised work is an important driver of economic development in the State.
Building on its past achievements, Biomedical Research Victoria continues to add value to its Members and the biomedical sector through its leadership and by the collaborative approach to all that it undertakes.
Biomedical Research Victoria’s aim is to ensure that Victoria maintains its leading position, relative to other Australian states and also to the emerging life sciences centres in the region, as a location to conduct research, attract internationally-recognised scientists, deliver world class clinical outcomes, create knowledge and establish new industries.
Collaborative Projects arising from “The Bio21 Project”
In a number of these collaborative projects, the Biomedical Research Victoria (Bio21 Cluster) name is rarely, if ever mentioned, however at the earliest stage and usually at the Scientific Advisory Council, the seeds were sown for what subsequently became major projects. Such instances have sometimes been referred to as having arisen via the organisations “invisible hand”.
Platforms and Capabilities (with collaborating organisations noted)
- Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute – a multidisciplinary research centre, specialising in medical, agricultural and environmental biotechnology. (Uni Melb)
- Joint Proteomics Facility – focuses on analytical biochemistry and technical developments in protein separation and characterisation, as well as proteomics. (WEHI, LICR)
- BioGrid – provides a flexible and secure method for interrogating multiple data sources where thousands of records of patient data are re-linked across different databases and institutions. (Melbourne Health, Western Health, Austin LifeSciences, Alfred Health, Peter Mac, WEHI, LICR, Cancer Trials Australia)
- Collaborative Crystallisation Centre (C3) – provides the infrastructure to advance the process of protein crystallisation and the production of the crystals required to obtain atomic-level protein structures. (CSIRO, WEHI, SVI, Austin LifeSciences, MIPS)
- 800 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer (NMR) – an instrument with high sensitivity and resolution and can elucidate structures of normally intractable proteins in solution. It complements the capabilities of the Australian Synchrotron and the Bio21 Institute’s high resolution cryo-electron microscopy facility. (Uni Melb)
- High Throughput Chemical Screening Facility (HTCS) – enhanced technological capability in high throughput screening and medicinal chemistry, a state of the art automated system and unique collection of 100,000 diverse chemicals for lead compound discovery. (WEHI)
- Facilities for Human Cellular Diagnosis and Therapy (SVI, SVH, MCRI, RCH, WEHI, RMH)
- Bioresources Facilities – A virtual rodent facility with common high health standards allowing transfer of animals across facilities. (SVH, SVI, Austin LifeSciences, Melbourne Health, Uni Melb)
- Victorian Platform Technologies Network (VPTN) – provides awareness of, and access to, the varied platform technologies and expertise across Victoria and facilitates effective research-industry sector linkages. (BioMedVic, Monash Uni)
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) – gives undergraduate students an early opportunity to experience life in a research laboratory and gain insight into careers in biomedical research.
- Victorian Clinician Researcher Network (VCRN) – provides a forum for clinician researchers to network and explore issues of common interest
- Victorian Cancer Biobank – a consortium of tissue banks to provide researchers with high quality tissue samples and data in order to facilitate cancer research discoveries.
- Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – a world class cancer centre that will bring together eight BioMedVic Member organisations.
- CRC for Cancer Therapeutics – aims to discover and develop new small molecule drugs for the treatment of cancer. The WEHI/Bio21 High Throughput Chemical Screening facility is a major platform for this CRC.
- Life Science Computational Centre of the VLSCI – an e-research centre focussing on computational solutions for life science research (operational model developed following discussions at SAC).