Acclaimed molecular biologist Professor Frank Gannon will utilise his extensive ties with the international scientific community and passion for cutting-edge technologies to kick-start an ambitious bio-medical cluster on Brisbane’s doorstep.
The former Director and CEO of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute for nearly a decade, revealed today he had “hit the ground running” to turn Springfield City’s visionary Innovative Medicines Hub into reality.
Professor Gannon – also a former Director-General of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) – said he was currently in discussions with six Australian companies to establish themselves in the Springfield ecosystem.
“I’ve basically been approaching my contacts and selling them on the Springfield vision, which really isn’t that hard to do,” he said. “While I can’t go into specifics, it’s fair to say that we are also looking to collaborate with universities and TAFE colleges, as well as working with the State Government to tap into the state’s burgeoning biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
“I’m excited to be working with like-minded people at Springfield City Group (SCG) – because I know first-hand how the development of new medicines, treatments and devices can change the world.”
Professor Gannon said he took on the new career path as an adviser for SCG – the master-planners of the city – following “a chat” with former Queensland Health Director-General, Emeritus Professor Rob Stable, now Chair of Springfield Health City.
“I’d heard of Springfield and the vision of (SCG Chairman) Maha Sinnathamby during my travels before I left Ireland to take up my position with QIMR Berghofer in 2011,” Prof Gannon said.
“I’ve worked around the globe, and one huge bonus for Springfield is the fact it’s an integrated community – the proposed hub is located close to surrounding infrastructure and major institutions such as universities and hospitals.
“This will allow for a cluster of forward-looking companies to be in one location where they will have space to expand and will be close to support functions that they will need for advanced manufacturing.”
There are 135 ASX-listed MedTech (medical technology) and pharmaceutical companies in Australia, with a market capitalisation of $179 billion. In 2014, it was estimated the industry (including digital health) employed about 19,000 people.
The new hub will be situated in Springfield Health City, a 52-hectare integrated “one stop health shop” which includes the 80-bed Mater Private Hospital Springfield and the recently announced 174-bed Mater Public Hospital. Council has approved future expansion to 1200 hospital beds.
Springfield Health City – along with IDEA City (Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship and Arts which Springfield City Group wants to be a futuristic version of Silicon Valley, boasting new-age technology) and Education City combine to make up Springfield’s Knowledge Precinct.
Mr Sinnathamby said Professor Gannon was the “ideal person” to be attracting leading health service providers, researchers, investors and government stakeholders to Springfield’s new Innovative Medicines hub.
“I’m delighted he has joined our team – Professor Gannon’s appointment comes at a particularly important time in Springfield’s history,” Mr Sinnathamby said.
“Springfield is a fast-emerging city in the epicentre of one of Australia’s fastest-growing corridors. With half a million residents within 22 minutes, this burgeoning economic growth corridor is strategically positioned for new infrastructure and new jobs, comprising a new knowledge workforce, smart manufacturing and businesses supporting defence.
“Health is one of our cornerstones – we want to ensure the next generation of highly-qualified specialists are not only trained but retained. Perhaps we can reverse the brain-drain and attract back home some of the senior scientists who’ve left Australia.”
Professor Stable, who is also involved in developing the Innovative Medicines Hub, welcomed Professor Gannon’s appointment. “His involvement – and world-standing – is a key piece of advancing this purpose-built hub and the innovation and jobs that come with it,” Professor Stable said.
“It makes sense, especially with this COVID pandemic, to retain the research, the products and ultimately the jobs being created in Australia – by creating this world-class ecosystem. It will be a setting where we have some of the world’s best minds, working in this great space.”
Professor Gannon is “confident” announcements regarding new tenants will be forthcoming before year’s end. “We’ve got enough irons in the fire to ensure that will happen. Springfield has the ideal environment to become a leader in providing a potential innovation-to-international market path.”
BACKGROUND: Professor Gannon was Director and CEO of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute between 2011 and 2019. Prior to his appointment at Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in 2007, he was Executive Director of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and Senior Scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), based at Heidelberg, Germany. Born and raised in Galway, Ireland, his academic qualifications include a Bachelor of Science from the National University of Ireland in 1970 and a PhD from the University of Leicester in 1973. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Madison in Wisconsin, USA from 1973 to 1975 and Charge de Recherche in INSERM at the University of Strasbourg, France from 1975 to 1981. From 1981 to 1994 he was Professor at The National University Ireland (NUI) Galway.
Key facts about Springfield:
- Masterplan approved for 2.685 million square metres of mixed-use GFA and 22,855 apartments
- $18 billion spent on Greater Springfield to date
- Population of 46,000, growing at 5.8% per annum
- Two rail stations and connected by major road networks
- 11 schools, both public and private schools
- Private hospital, university, and TAFE campus with new public hospital to be opened in 2024
- Major shopping centre, Orion Springfield Central
- Data centre and dark fibre network connecting Greater Springfield and Brisbane