Plans for an Australian 100,000 Genomes Project

6 December 2015

Australia may be moving towards a home-grown version of the UK 100,000 Genomes Project.

According to The Australian, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research is reportedly in talks with the federal government and other public and private research institutions including major telecommunications company Telstra, to see whether they can create such a project by working in partnership. Telstra already has a dedicated health division.

Garvan’s ambitions for genomic and personalised medicine are long-standing; the institute was one of the world’s first recipients of the Illumina HiSeq X Ten system, allowing sequencing of whole human genomes for under the fabled US $1,000 mark (~AU$1,400). It also hosts the Sydney Genomics Collaborative programme, providing access to high-throughput genome sequencing to researchers from other participating institutions, and recently announced a genome sequencing project as part of a collaboration with the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study  on healthy ageing.

Now it is reported to be planning an AU $400 million four-year project modelled on the English  100,000 Genomes Project (100KGP) , sequencing patients with rare diseases and cancers to create a massive database for further research and development in personalised medicine, as well as a new ­genomic medicine service for the health system – based on genomic data from the Australian population.

Garvan Director John Mattick said that it was an opportunity for Australia to be a major player, commenting: “We are hoping that Australia will capitalise on its outstanding healthcare system and longstanding investment in biomedical R&D to lead the region and the world in genomic medicine. The fast game is on now”.

The aim is not just for health but also for wider economic benefits to stem from world-class genomics research – very much the same agenda as for the National Health Service owned company that runs the 100KGP, Genomics England – with which the Garvan recently signed a formal memorandum of understanding. And just as the 100KGP is supported by government money and in-kind contributions from the sequencing giant Illumina, the Garvan hopes to see a government supported project with multiple contributors to funding , expertise and infrastructure needs.

Spokeswoman Meredith Ross said: “We can envision opportunities for many organisations, both public and private, contributing to the program so that we build a dynamic, innovative genomics economy that suits the needs of Australia”.

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