The University of Melbourne has been announced as one of the foundation partners in a new Translational Research Centre in Nanjing that will enable researchers and clinicians in Australia and China to fast-track discoveries in basic scientific research and translate these into improved care for patients around the world.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement in China this morning, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Nanjing University, the University of Melbourne, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and Cancer Trials Australia.

The Centre will focus on three global healthcare problems: cancer, inflammation and infectious disease.

The Centre’s setup will focus on providing training in key disciplines such as structural biology and bioinformatics, as well as establishing strong personalized medicine platforms at Nanjing University.

Joint faculty positions and exchanges between partners in Australia and China will also be established, while post-graduate training and internship exchanges will be provided.

Finally, there will also be work done on enabling early stage clinical trials in both Melbourne and Nanjing with a particular focus on Phase 1 trials in cancer, infectious diseases and inflammation.

The partnership is underpinned by the Victoria-Jiangsu sister state relationship established in 1979. Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province, with Nanjing University having an established international research reputation, ranking 6th in Asia on the Nature index.

The University is already quite active in Jiangsu province, specifically through its relationship with Nanjing Agricultural University for the Australia-China Joint Research Centre of Healthy Soils for Sustainable Food Production and Environmental Quality,

This announcement adds to the University’s extensive research and teaching links in China, which also includes Australia-China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management and a virtual campus arrangement with Tsinghua University

The new Centre also builds on the University’s strong and productive relationship with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, a partnership that has been in place for more than 100 years.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the entire concept of the Centre is based on the exchange of knowledge. “This will be a truly collaborative partnership; one that builds off the long-standing relationship the state of Victoria has with Jiangsu.“This will be a partnership that puts ongoing training, staff exchange and student internships at the heart of its establishment, building on the complementary expertise of all those involved.”

“We are confident this collaboration will offer our students and academic researchers unique opportunities to excel with academic partners in China, as well as drive innovation and growth in the biotechnology and healthcare sectors in both Australia and China,” Professor Davis said.

Nanjing University President Professor Chen Jun said “The cooperation includes joint training of undergraduate and graduate students, joint teaching, research cooperation and technology transfer, which is a typical example of NJU's attempt to upgrade internationalization and is also conducive to international innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Cancer is the leading cause of death in China, accounting for nearly three million deaths a year. Infectious diseases such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are also a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in China.

However one third of avoidable cancer-related deaths in China are caused by chronic infections, with the growing burden of disease often attributed to factors such as rapid population growth, ageing, pollution and socio-demographic or lifestyle changes currently being experience in China.

Expanded Quotes for Media

Attributable to Director of WEHI, Professor Douglas Hilton:

“As Australia’s oldest biomedical research organisation, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is taking the lead to develop and strengthen ties with top Chinese institutions, bringing biomedicine’s best and brightest together to improve patient care – including for primary health – in both countries.”

 “Our powerful alliance will deliver unparalleled opportunities for Melbourne’s world-class biotech sector to collaborate with its Chinese counterparts to help prevent and treat cancer, as well as infectious or immunological diseases”.

Attributable to Professor Hua Zichun, Dean of Life Sciences from Nanjing University and Director of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Research Institute of Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institutes:
“The initiative provides access to Melbourne’s expertise in translational medicine and to the Australian clinical trial system, particularly in phase I clinical trials. Such access builds on the trials conducted by Cancer Trials Australia and will facilitate the timely progression of promising Chinese drug candidates to the clinic and global markets”.