Victoria Leads the Nation in treating Type 1 Diabetes

Victoria is home to a new centre that will deliver a revolutionary medical treatment to people across Australia suffering from life-threatening Type 1 diabetes.

Page last updated: 08 April 2014

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Joint Media Release


The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Sport
Minister for Health

The Hon David Davis MLC
Minister for Health
Minister for Ageing
Joint Media Release


8 April 2014

  • Nationally Funded Centre for Islet Cell Transplantation opened
  • Revolutionary medical treatment for people with Type 1 diabetes
  • Victorian Coalition Government building a healthier Victoria
Victoria is home to a new centre that will deliver a revolutionary medical treatment to people across Australia suffering from life-threatening Type 1 diabetes.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton and Victorian Minister for Health David Davis today officially launched the Nationally Funded Centre for Islet Cell Transplantation in Victoria.

Mr Dutton said the centre was vitally important for Victorians, and all Australians, with the incidence of Type 1 diabetes increasing.

“This is a tremendous achievement for Victoria and demonstrates that St Vincent’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI) are truly world leaders in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes,” Mr Dutton said.

“The hospital and SVI will host the Nationally Funded Centre for Islet Cell Transplantation alongside New South Wales’ Westmead Hospital and South Australia’s Royal Adelaide Hospital.”.

Mr Davis said islet cell transplantation is a complex, highly specialised medical procedure where cells that produce insulin are taken from donor pancreas and transplanted into a recipient’s liver.

“The centre will increase access to a ground breaking transplantation procedure that can significantly improve the quality of life for people with unstable Type 1 diabetes,” Mr Davis said.

“Few hospitals in the world are able to provide this level of specialist treatment for people with Type 1 diabetes.

“The procedure requires specially trained scientific staff and a state-of-the-art laboratory to isolate and extract the islet cells that continue to produce insulin.”

Mr Davis said unstable Type 1 diabetes in which patients are unaware they have dangerously low blood glucose levels is a complex condition that can cause frequent unconsciousness and if not managed adequately can be deadly.

“The life changing procedure gives hope to patients with unstable Type 1 diabetes who cannot be treated with traditional insulin injections,” Mr Davis said.

“In the best case scenario, the transplant recipient can become free of the need to inject insulin.”

Mr Dutton said the facility has boosted Australia’s capacity to develop and manufacture human cell and tissue based therapies, assisting in the islet cell transplantation program at St Vincent’s Hospital and SVI.

“We are extremely fortunate in Australia, and especially in Victoria, to be able to access this care at St Vincent’s Hospital, along with SVI, which is internationally recognised for this procedure and diabetes research,” Mr Dutton said.

Mr Dutton said SVI has been undertaking the islet cell isolation and St Vincent’s Hospital has been providing the transplants since 2008.

The Nationally Funded Centre Program provides access for all Australians requiring specified complex procedures, with all states contributing to a national funding pool.

“The Victorian Government is contributing $675,000 into the pool. From this pool, more than $1 million a year will be invested back into Victoria to run the Nationally Funded Centre for Islet Cell Transplantation,” Mr Dutton said.

“A total of $2.7 million in recurrent funding will be allocated for islet cell transplantation nationally.”

In 2013/14, the Nationally Funded Centre Program delivered $25.3 million for six specialist medical procedures, all of which were hosted in Victoria.

The Commonwealth, through its Education Investment Fund administered by Therapeutic Innovation Australia, provided the funding to establish the Facility at St Vincent’s where the islets are isolated.

Head of the Centre at St Vincent’s, Professor Tom Kay, said: “We are very excited that the Islet Transplant Program has been granted Nationally Funded Centre status and that the Consortium will continue to provide a highly collaborative national approach.

“Our aim is to ensure that Victoria has the capacity to provide high quality, effective, and safe islet transplantation at the most affordable cost.

“Since its inception, the transplant program has made a real difference to those suffering with type 1 diabetes and their families. Since 2007, the National Program has done a total of 46 transplants in 22 patients, eight of these being done at St Vincent’s Hospital. In addition to the patients transplanted in Melbourne, the Melbourne-based team has also provided islets for five transplants done in Adelaide.”

St Vincent’s Hospital CEO Ben Fielding said it is hugely rewarding for St Vincent’s clinicians to be involved in procedures like this that will transform the lives of patients.

“It is a great example of the biomedical engineering breakthroughs that will be generated from the planned Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery,” Mr Fielding said.

“This novel procedure will change peoples’ lives and keep Victoria at the forefront of the medical research industry.”

Media contacts:
Minister Dutton - John Wiseman, 0401 776 108
Minister Davis - Ashley Gardiner, 0427 560 438

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