The $24 million Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF) is one of only a handful of imaging research facilities in Australia and the first to be devoted entirely to clinical research. HIRF has been built to cater for the growing role of imaging in clinical research. The facility gives researchers unprecedented access to high-quality imaging equipment and allows the rapid translation of research into clinical practice.
HIRF is an alliance between four of Queensland’s most influential research and clinical institutions: The University of Queensland (UQ), the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute; Queensland University of Technology; and the Metro North Hospital and Health Service through the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).
Leading healthcare company Siemens is HIRF’s industry partner, supplying clinical scanners so powerful they will revolutionise the treatment of serious diseases, including cancer, dementia and mental illness. Molecular imaging equipment dedicated to human research will include a 3-T MRI scanner, a PET/CT machine, and a PET/MRI machine that provides simultaneous information on the location and function of tumours - a ground breaking technology not yet seen in Australia.
The scanners are different from those being used now for diagnostic imaging of patients as they combine anatomical, molecular and functional processes to help researchers improve understanding of disease and to quickly determine whether treatments are effective. For example, in cancer research, the scanners will not only pinpoint a tumour’s location and size, but whether that tumour tissue is active. In the case of neurological diseases such as dementia or mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, the scanners will enable detailed studies of how the brain is wired.
No matter what the condition, the scanners will provide important information for researchers who are ultimately trying to prevent and treat disease, and ensure health funding goes to the most effective treatments. Patients will not only benefit from the imaging services but also be involved in translational research that will improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, mental health and neurological diseases.
HIRF is strategically positioned at UQ's Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR) between the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and QIMR Berghofer Research Institute, on an outpatient floor with direct access to the hospital. Such positioning will make it easier to involve patients in research and enable clinicians and researchers to work together to provide improved health outcomes for patients.
The facility also breaks new ground for imaging specialists, who will now require cross training on the scanners as they offer hybrid imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scanning in a single machine.
HIRF has been funded by a $3 million Queensland Government grant; $3 million from the Commonwealth Government; a $2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation; $1.5 million from the RBWH Private Practice Trust Fund; and partner contributions.