New Australian genomic medicine initiative

12 February 2014

A new collaborative Australian initiative has been launched to drive implementation of genomic information in clinical care.

The Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance brings together multiple clinical and research partners from the Australian state of Victoria, including Melbourne Health, the University of Melbourne, the Australian Genome Research Facility and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
The partners share a common goal to integrate genomic information into everyday healthcare, sequencing genomes from patients with known or suspected genetic diseases to drive research, results from which will ultimately inform improvements in clinical care.
It is emphasised that the research programme will be clinically led, with appropriate ethical frameworks and a Community Advisory Group to ensure that patients always come first. The alliance also hopes it will reduce inequities in access to genetic testing, currently said to be largely restricted to analysis of single genes for specific genetic disorders.
Initially, more than 200 patients will receive exome sequencing for conditions including the genetic disorders Charcot-Marie Tooth syndrome and hereditary colorectal cancer; acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and focal epilepsy.
Dr Gareth Goodier, Head of the Alliance CEOs group and CEO of Melbourne Health said: “we hope to support more accurate diagnosis and prognosis, identify patients at greater risk of disease or complications, and select and prioritise therapy in the prevention and control of infection outbreaks”. Interestingly, Dr Goodier was previously CEO of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust in the UK, another environment where genomics research and clinical excellence meet.
Comment: The emphasis on patients and clinical care for this initiative is interesting, especially in comparison with the UK 100,000 Genomes Project, which of course is a much larger scale exercise (with funding of £100 million, as opposed to around £3.2 million for the regional Australian project) and is seeking to create both health and wealth for the UK by creating a commercially viable research database.

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