A pioneering health research hub based in Ballarat will close on June 30 after it couldn't secure funding to go forward.
The Ballarat Innovation and Research for Collaboration in Health, established in 2018, aimed to bring together the considerable amount of talent working and studying in the city's two hospitals and six universities.
Initially funded with a $300,000 grant from the state government, it received another $150,000 in 2020, and was the subject of an election promise from federal Ballarat MP Catherine King, who said if Labor won in 2019, another $10 million would be allocated.
BIRCH set up a headquarters on Webster Street and appointed respected doctor Professor Mark Yates as executive director in 2019.
The aim of the initiative was to nurture talent in the regions, developing medical research in a collaborative way.
In a media release shared online, BIRCH's innovation and research director Ronelle Welton said the centre was "unable to secure ongoing funding".
"We are sure Ballarat will become a core for research collaboration into the future," she states.
The release includes several key projects BIRCH was involved in, including the development of Gekko Medical's Therapeutic Goods Administration application for the GeVentor - a Ballarat-born ventilator system with the potential to help people across the world.
Gekko's managing director Elizabeth Lewis-Gray said it was "as disappointing a day for us as it is for them".
"It's always a shame to lose key knowledge capability in Ballarat, and they played a key role in the development of the ventilator," she said.
BIRCH was involved with 11 clinician-led projects to improve patient care, and supported reviewing and developing another five Ballarat clinician-led projects and a health-linked engineering concept.
Another three projects are in development and planning stages across a variety of fields - it's not clear what will happen to these projects.
BIRCH was also involved in providing workshops and advisory panels for staff at Ballarat Health Services and St John of God Ballarat.
Representatives from BIRCH were repeatedly approached for comment on Monday evening, as were the state government, federal representatives, universities, and both hospitals.
BIRCH's media release states grants were sought from the state government and the National Health and Medical Research Council, however in 2019 it was revealed BIRCH would need to become recognised as an "administering institution" to be eligible for NHMRC funding.
An NHMRC spokesperson said they were unable to comment on individual unsuccessful applications.
"NHMRC runs highly competitive grant rounds to fund health and medical research," they said in a statement.
"NHMRC provides analysis of each grant round in fact sheets that include statistics on the total number of applications and the percentage of successful applications."
The Committee for Ballarat was an early supporter of BIRCH, and chief executive Michael Poulton echoed Ms Lewis-Gray in expressing his disappointment at its closure.
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"With its closure goes a unique opportunity Ballarat had in bringing together experts whose sole objective was to enhance the health and wellbeing of our community," he said in a statement.
"When we collaborate, innovation and creativity flourish and great things can happen.
"BIRCH was all about collaboration and we are very sad to see the opportunity to bring together the medical profession, universities, industry, government and the community, now lost.
"Committee for Ballarat thanks those who have supported BIRCH and whilst they will now no longer exist, BIRCH's work will continue to have its legacy in innovations such as the Gekko-designed and manufactured ventilator."
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