Charles Perkins Centre takes off in the fight against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease

The Charles Perkins Centre spans the University’s geographic locations and brings together researchers, clinicians and students from all 16 of the University of Sydney’s faculties to find solutions to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related conditions. Collectively, these are among the most pressing health issues ever to face humanity.

The new $385 million Charles Perkins Centre research and education hub– a major research, education and clinical facility – sits at the heart of the centre.

Along with finding real-world, big-picture solutions to these issues, the multidisciplinary structure of the centre has the potential to revolutionise the way research and teaching is conducted, both in Australia and internationally.

“We are immensely excited to launch the Charles Perkins Centre research and education hub, which will play home to an initiative that is already changing the way we think about some of the most destructive health issues in the world,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

“The Charles Perkins Centre represents a completely new way of conducting research. The breadth and depth of multidisciplinary research conducted by the centre is unparalleled both in Australia and internationally.”

The centre looks for integrated solutions across disciplines and at their junctions – clinicians, nutritionists and health scientists work with philosophers, marketers, agriculturalists, architects, economists and many others.

Together with many of the University’s best minds, outstanding researchers recruited as chairs in the centre from across Australia and internationally are working to develop research and education programs that do not just add incrementally to the knowledge base, but generate major shifts in our understanding.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that there is no simple, single solution for the crisis posed by our skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related conditions,” said Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre.

“Along with world-leading nutrition research, the Charles Perkins Centre looks beyond what we eat to find big-picture solutions to the obesity crisis. We now live in a foodscape barely recognisable to our ancestors, and the world we have created for ourselves is out of step with our biology and our health. Agriculture, economics, the built environment and our work structure, along with many other factors, play a significant role in the state of our health.

“The Charles Perkins Centre’s unique combination of a complex systems approach, the integration of multiple academic disciplines, and the scale, breadth and depth of research we conduct represents a new model for understanding and overcoming obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related conditions.

“However, we need to move fast. If we don’t change the course of our nation, a shuddering 80 per cent of all Australians will be obese or overweight in a decade, while diabetes is set to become the major cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia by 2016.”

The Charles Perkins Centre is named after a distinguished alumnus of the University, Charles Perkins. The first Aboriginal man to graduate from university in Australia, Charles Perkins was a visionary Australian who challenged societal attitudes and worked across boundaries to create opportunities and find novel solutions.

He showed that new ways, partnerships and ideas could change the way Australians think and act. He sought to lead collaborations in situations where a single person or agency could not deliver. In the same way, the Charles Perkins Centre looks beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to improve the health of individuals, communities and the nation.

The Charles Perkins Centre would not be possible without the generous support of its donors. The unique research and teaching opportunities created by the centre have inspired many far-sighted philanthropists to make significant contributions towards its work and INSPIRED – the Campaign to Support the University of Sydney. So far, $58 million has been raised for numerous important projects, positions and opportunities at the Charles Perkins Centre.

The Charles Perkins Centre Research and Education Hub project was supported by a $95m award from the Commonwealth Education Infrastructure Fund (round 1).

About the Charles Perkins Centre Research and Education Hub:

The $385 million Charles Perkins Centre Research and Education Hub is a state-of-the-art, 49,500 square metre research, education and clinical facility on the University of Sydney’s Camperdown Campus.

The Research and Education Hub is purpose-built to foster collaboration, with largely open-plan offices, shared lab facilities with dedicated technicians, shared informal spaces, and numerous small meeting rooms for impromptu discussions.

The building will accommodate 900 researchers, who are being moved into the Hub throughout 2014.

The Research and Education Hub also features the world’s most advanced teaching laboratory, the X-Lab, where each student is equipped with their own touch screen computer, which can stream microscope, face camera and computer content. Teaching commenced in Semester One, with 1,500 students in 84 course units taking classes in wet and dry teaching spaces, as well as working in independent and collaborative study areas.

An advanced clinical research facility, which will be operated in conjunction with the Sydney Local Health District, will be used to treat patients, test new models of clinical care, and conduct research trials, with a metabolic kitchen, overnight stay rooms, gym equipment, and associated clinical facilities.

Beyond the University’s campuses, the facility will be a hub for academic and community engagement stretching across metropolitan Sydney and all the way to Broken Hill.

The Charles Perkins Centre Research and Education Hub was designed by Richard Francis-Jones (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp architects) and was delivered by Brookfield Multiplex, significantly ahead of schedule and under budget.

Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809