Australian funding underpins genomic and personalised medicine

17 June 2014

The State Government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia has announced AU$24 million funding for the Sydney Genomics Collaborative program.

In a move expected to further boost Sydney and NSW’s expertise in genomic and personalised medicine and deliver tangible health benefits, it was also announced that the Garvan Institute of Medical Research will host the initiative and provide access to high throughput genome sequencing for researchers from across the state.

The Garvan is one of the first centres in the world to possess the Illumina HiSeq X Ten system capable of performing large scale DNA sequencing for as little as the fabled US$1,000 per genome and producing as many as 18,000 whole genome sequences each year.

The Sydney Genomics Collaborative program is intended to facilitate research into inherited diseases and cancer. It will comprise a Medical Genomics Reference Bank of ‘control’ whole genome sequences from healthy individuals (to allow comparisons with those of patients with specific diseases under investigation); a dedicated funding programme for genomic medical research projects; and a special NSW Cancer Genomic Medicine Program to focus on the application of genomics to improved prevention, diagnosis and clinical management of cancer.

Welcoming the funding announcement and praising the leadership of the NSW State Government in genomic medicine, Garvan Institute Executive Director Professor John Mattick, said it was “a far-sighted investment in public health and in positioning NSW as a hub for genomic research and genomic medicine”.

A Genomic Scientific Advisory Group chaired by Emeritus Professor Bruce Armstrong of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health will have oversight of the collaborative programme, maintaining a robust ethical, medical and public health framework and evaluating applications for research funding.

NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research Jillian Skinner said that the venture was exciting, observing: “Sequencing of large cohorts of patients has the potential to unleash amazing improvement in health and efficiencies in health spending”. However, it is not clear how close the link between research and clinical practice is expected to be; the UK 100,000 Genomes Project, by comparison, is deliberately tied in with the National Health Service via NHS England.

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