Meet the VCCC team – David Keenan, Plenary Health General Manager

Published 27 October 2015

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA – David Keenan’s career has been one wild ride. It’s a career trajectory that has seen David move from the UK to Australia, and trade a lab coat for a hard hat to help construct some of Australia’s most iconic cancer research facilities.

David joined infrastructure specialist Plenary Group in 2013. In his role as General Manager for Plenary Health, David is one of a small but elite team responsible for the delivery of the A$1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) currently under construction in Parkville, Melbourne.

Born in the small market town of Egremont, in northwest UK David moved to Liverpool to study zoology before moving to Edinburgh where he worked in sales for a national wine retailer. After two years, science and research came calling.

David worked at Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit with respected Australian researcher Professor Peter Currie doing medical research focused on genetics, particularly on muscular diseases using Zebrafish.

Two years later Professor Currie’s laboratory was relocated to Sydney’s Victor Chang Research Institute and David took the opportunity to start a new life. It was building the institute’s first Zebrafish aquarium that David got his first taste of design development.

In 2004 David moved to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research where he started as Lab Manager but quickly moved up the ranks to become Operations Manager, responsible for a large team supporting cutting-edge research.

David was responsible for various construction projects for the Institute including The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and representing Garvan’s interests in projects such as the Lowy Packer Building development as part of the St Vincent’s Research Precinct.

Upon meeting David, Plenary Group Chief Operating Officer Glenn Hay – who has management oversight of the VCCC’s delivery – knew he would be a great fit for the Plenary team.

“When David took me on a tour of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre I could see his passion for cancer overlaid with his strong technical knowledge of the facility,” Glenn said.

“From that moment I knew David’s experience would be invaluable to the VCCC, and fortunately so did David.”

David explains that his role in the VCCC – his most challenging to date – encompasses both design and construction delivery but also overseeing preparations for the facility’s operational commencement  in mid-2016.

“On a project of this scale there is a great deal of information being exchanged, which can be challenging to keep on top of,” David says.

“This is my first Public Private Partnership, and it has been a steep learning curve in the nuances of how the contract is administered and the various roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders. On a project of this scale there are a lot of good people involved.”

David thinks his willingness to accept challenges and make life sacrifices has landed him such significant and senior roles so early in his career. Of course, the opportunity to work on buildings that ultimately help to save the lives of thousands of people does not go unnoticed.

“I take a lot of pleasure from knowing the VCCC is providing an improved facility for the clinical and research work for staff of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Health and the University of Melbourne,” David says.

“The VCCC will improve the experience had by cancer patients during treatment, as well as provide upgraded spaces for researchers that are tirelessly working on understanding the underlying issues of cancer.

“To be involved in projects that have this level of direct and measurable output is a great honour.” 

The VCCC is set to begin operations in mid-2016.


Image: David Keenan (centre) with Plenary Health VCCC architects Christon Batey Smith (left) and Rohan Wilson (right)

Kelvyn Lavelle

Head of Corporate Affairs
+61 3 8888 7708
+61 413 120 344
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