Cancer research that would take humans a decade to complete could be done in one day with a new drug discovery robot at the ANU, researchers say.
They predict the results could extend the lives of cancer sufferers by 20-30 years.
The High Throughput Robotic Target and Drug Discovery Screening Platform was unveiled at the launch of the CRF Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Department, the first department dedicated solely to cancer research at an Australian university.
It's the newest addition to the ANU's John Curtin School of Medical Research.
ACT Centenary Chair of Cancer Research Professor Ross Hannan said the technology was used in three other Australian cities, but the ANU could do more complex screening with all of the equipment in one area.
He said the screening system could test tens of thousands of molecules to find the best treatments for a range of diseases.
"If you did that individually that would take ten years, but now I can take 100,000 compounds and screen them rapidly in one day to find the one compound that will block what's called a metastatic process," Professor Hannan said.
"Once we develop that small compound, we go to out chemists who will turn it into a drug."
Professor Hannan said the speedy progress would allow researchers to control terminal cancers so that they become chronic diseases, which would result in longer and higher quality lives for cancer sufferers.
"The other thing we can do with this screening facility is quickly re-purpose the 4,500 drugs which have been approved to be used in humans," he said.
"Drugs that treat one disease could be used to treat a different one. So a patient may come into the clinic who has failed all standard therapies and is put on palliative care, and we can take their tumour cells and test them against every drug that has ever been discovered to find out whether any of those might be a cure or a treatment for a range of diseases."
The technology was funded in part by a $2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and a $200,000 grant from the ACT government.
ACT Health Minister Meeghan Fitzharris said the technology put the ACT at the forefront of cancer research.
"Getting the right equipment and technology builds the momentum that makes people from elsewhere in Australia want to come and study here and work here," Ms Fitzharris said.
"That's the sort of investment we want to make, to be that catalyst for collaboration and building this centre of excellence here with leading edge research and technology."