Construction of £9.5m Medical Research Facility commences in Malawi

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The new medical research and training facility is named the CREATOR, an acronym for ‘Clinical Research Excellence And Training Open Resource’. 

The CREATOR facility will provide a highly specialized research environment to train the next generation of medical researchers in Malawi, whilst also supporting clinicians at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) located in Blantyre – Malawi’s second largest city.

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On completion, the facility will contain state-of-the-art laboratories, flexible learning spaces and simulation rooms. Recording and live-stream capabilities will enable interaction with global health leaders across the world.

The CREATOR project is a partnership between Malawi’s new Kamuzu University of Health Sciences; the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi; the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in the U.K.; the University of Liverpool in the U.K. and the medical research foundation Wellcome.

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FBW Group, a multi-disciplinary planning, architectural design, engineering and project management consultancy, is leading the design and technical supervision team on the project. FBW undertook enabling surveys on the site of the facility, and is also taking on project management as the building develops.

FBW has offices in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, U.K. and Netherlands, and is reported to have a track record in supporting external parties to deliver construction projects to international standards in East Africa. According to a post on the company’s website, the CREATOR project is just one of a number of ground-breaking, high-profile medical developments FBW is currently working on in collaboration with major international organisations.

U.K. based consulting firms – architecture practice, Cassidy + Ashton, and structural engineering specialist, TRP Consulting – are providing architectural and engineering design services on the new medical research and training facility.

The new research and training facility is being built on the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. Construction works have begun on the project, which is estimated to cost £9.5 million (approximately US$11.72 million). 

The University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Wellcome have committed £8.5 million funding for the state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Chris Taylor, Director at Cassidy + Ashton and lead architect on the Creator building, said: “Working on this project has been both inspirational and challenging. From initially visiting the site in Malawi and understanding the complexities of the location and the end-users objectives, our strategy is to develop the design in the UK and then handover the project to local multi-disciplinary practice, FBW, to convert the building to local techniques. This will involve careful consideration of materials, given the remote location, and consideration to the deprived area with its lack of skilled labour.”

Geoff Wilks, Director at TRP Consulting, the structural engineers on the project, said: “We’re delighted to be part of the team that is working to deliver this ground-breaking and vitally important project that will help address the many emerging health threats facing Malawi.”

Paul Moores, FBW’s Group Managing Director, said: “ … we are already seeing good progress on the ground, with contractors working quickly to prepare the ground and lay the foundations for the new centre.” He also added “We’re looking forward to seeing CREATOR take shape. It is an amazing, innovative and experimental development that will make a real difference to healthcare in Malawi and the region, and we’re honoured to be playing our part in the delivery of such an important facility for global medical research.”

Benefits

Malawi currently has around 600 clinical doctors to treat a population of 16 million. The new centre will meet a critical need for further training of medical specialists and research opportunities focusing on the particular needs of the sub-Saharan Africa region.

The CREATOR facility will help to halt the ‘brain drain’ that sees doctors leave the country to progress their careers, sometimes never returning.

This new research and training centre will help train and retain some of the top talent of doctors in the country. It is also expected to scale up research activities by 30% over the next 10 years. The research activities will be combined with postgraduate specialist medical education by mobilizing hospital academic departments and more than 140 postgraduate clinical and non–clinical research trainees. Overall, this will lead to increased progress of health improvement in the region.

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