Building begins on Adelaide’s landmark cancer centre

10 Jun 2020
Building begins on Adelaide’s landmark cancer centre

Construction is set to begin on the $500+ million Australian Bragg Centre which promises to revolutionise treatment for people with some cancers and deliver other wide-ranging benefits for research, industry and South Australia’s economy.

SAHMRI Executive Director, Professor Steve Wesselingh, says the new building, adjacent to the institute’s existing site on North Terrace, will literally be built on the emerging cancer treatment technology of proton therapy.

“The three underground levels will comprise the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research – which will house Australia’s first proton therapy unit,” he said.

“Currently, people who need this life-saving treatment have to travel to the US, Europe or Asia at great personal expense.”

The extremely precise nature of proton therapy allows radiation oncologists to target cancerous tissues directly with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. This makes it a valuable treatment option for tumours close to vital organs or those diagnosed in children.

Located in Adelaide’s BioMed City precinct, the Australian Bragg Centre has been made possible through an innovative partnership between the private sector and Federal and State governments. 

The project, which will support 1000 jobs and generate an estimated $1 billion in economic activity during construction, is due for completion in 2023 while it is hoped patient treatment can begin the following year.

South Australia’s leading developer Commercial & General has been a driving force in collaboration with SAHMRI - designing, funding, developing the business case and providing $400 million in private sector finance.

The developer’s Executive Chair Jamie McClurg says his organisation has a leading capability in health, having recently completed the successful $345 million Calvary Adelaide Hospital, the most cost-effective piece of critical health infrastructure in South Australia.

“Today is a special day for Commercial & General because it represents the culmination of four years of significant investment in terms of both financial and human capital,” he said.

“What we’ve been able to achieve through this innovative partnership between the private sector and Federal and State governments is one major multi-institutional complex with a single aim – to attack cancer from every angle for the benefit of patients now and in the future.”

The proton therapy unit is being provided by ProTom International, which will install its Radiance 330 proton therapy system, the same being used at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

ProTom International President and CEO Stephen Spotts says, once fully operational, the centre can treat approximately 600-700 patients per year with around half of these expected to be children and young adults.

“We believe our Radiance 330 device is the world leader in proton therapy and will enhance the Bragg Centre’s position in cancer treatment not only in Australia, but across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“We congratulate SAHMRI and Commercial & General for their vision in conceiving this extension of Adelaide’s cancer expertise, and the South Australian and Australian governments on their foresight in supporting this development.”

The State and Federal governments have been key enablers of the project, with the Commonwealth providing $68 million in a National Partnership Agreement, while the Government of South Australia is a cornerstone tenant through SA Health and a funding partner having committed $44 million in 2017, which includes the land and relocation of major rail infrastructure on the site.

The Australian Bragg Centre building has been designed by Woods Bagot, the architects of SAHMRI’s striking North Terrace headquarters, and will be built by Lendlease. Site remediation has been carried out by another South Australian company, McMahon Services.

As exciting as proton therapy promises to be for cancer treatment and research in Australia, Professor Wesselingh says that’s just one aspect of what the Australian Bragg Centre will deliver.

“The building will be home to clinical researchers from across SAHMRI’s Women and Kids and Aboriginal Health Equity themes as well as our cancer programs,” he said.

“In addition, we will commit a floor to researching artificial intelligence, machine learning, health informatics and health data analytics and will make another floor available for businesses from the health, biomed and pharmaceutical industries to gain a footprint in Adelaide BioMed City.

“Welcoming industry is the final piece in the puzzle for this world-class precinct, creating significant employment opportunities and enabling the research we do to be rapidly translated into real-world benefits for our community.”

The SAiGEN Cancer Institute, a new independent genomics and immunotherapy facility dedicated to cancer research, will also be located within the new building once completed.

The Australian Bragg Centre is named in honour of Adelaide-born physicist Sir William Lawrence Bragg and his father William Henry Bragg who together won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their part in the development of X-ray crystallography.

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Pete McDonald
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