A new multimillion dollar imaging facility that will underpin potentially life-changing clinical trials in neuroscience, cancer and a new generation of technologies was launched today by Western Australian Science and Medical Research Minister the Hon Stephen Dawson MLC.

The WA National Imaging Facility (WA NIF) Node now houses Western Australia’s first research-dedicated human MRI and PET-CT imaging technologies to add to its existing preclinical capability.

Minister Dawson said the new infrastructure will make it easier for researchers to undertake investigations requiring medical imaging.

“It will also increase opportunities for WA to be involved in nationally coordinated clinical trials, giving WA patients better access to emerging treatments and therapies,” Minister Dawson said.

NIF CEO Professor Wojtek Goscinski said the expansion of NIF’s national network of advanced human imaging capabilities to Western Australia will strengthen Australia’s ability to underpin large-cohort imaging projects including multi-site clinical trials, and in imaging across a representative sample of the Australian population.

“The WA NIF capabilities are essential to support national medical research priorities to keep Australians healthy, including the development of new medical products and pharmaceuticals, clinical research and industry partnerships,” Professor Goscinski said.

“This is also an important opportunity to recognise the world-leading expertise of the imaging scientists and research infrastructure specialists embedded in the WA NIF Node, who are critical to NIF’s operations, and central to maintaining Australia’s world-leading position in applying imaging technologies.”

“This team is essential to making the cutting-edge imaging capabilities accessible to Australian medical researchers, materials and agriculture scientists to enable them to solve challenges across research and industry,” Professor Goscinski said.

Based at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, the project is led by The University of Western (UWA) Australia and the Western Australian Health Translation Network.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said the facility would attract world-class researchers keen to advance healthcare, as well as reduce the barriers to cutting-edge treatments for patients.

“The scanners will cover a broad scope of diseases and treatment needs from basic science through to clinical trials – and will be available to all WA researchers,” Professor Chakma said.

Among key projects to benefit from the human MRI is a study led by Former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Wood and Associate Professor Mark Fear to compare the brains of children who have had a burn injury to those of the same age who have not had a burn. This follows earlier studies that found children who had burn injuries were more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental health treatment.

An Alzheimer’s disease study, led by Curtin University’s Professor John Mamo, will use both the PET-CT and MRI to investigate the impact of the cholesterol-lowering drug Probucol on cognitive function.

NIF has contributed $4.42m to the new WA facility through the Australian Government Department of Education’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). This investment includes new equipment for the manufacture of radiopharmaceuticals to be housed in the new cyclotron laboratories at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

NIF is a $300m portfolio of open-access imaging capabilities including equipment, expertise, tools, data and analysis available nationally across 14 nodes, which have received investment from NCRIS, state governments, and its network of university, medical research institute and government science agency partners.

Other major partners in the WA NIF Node are the WA Departments of Health and Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation and the WA Future Health Research and Innovation Fund. Lotterywest is the major supporter, with additional support from Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, Cancer Council WA, Perron Institute, The Ian Potter Foundation, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s Department of Radiation Oncology and Curtin, Murdoch and Edith Cowan universities.

In addition, the WA NIF Node has partnered with the Perth Radiological Clinic to provide the valuable clinical expertise of MRI radiographers and nuclear medicine technologists to support the facility.

The WA NIF Node, its world-class scientists and access to these world-leading imaging technologies will play an important role in supporting the next generation of treatments to keep Australians healthy.

Read the University of Western Australia media release here.

Read Minister Dawson’s media statement here.