News & Trends - Biotechnology

$33 million to boost genomics research into cancers and to combat children’s diseases

Health Industry Hub | May 11, 2020 |
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The Morrison Government has awarded over $33 million to Australia’s best and brightest researchers to combat high mortality and low survivability cancers and diseases, improve paediatric acute care using genomic medicine, and address the ethical, legal and social issues related to genomics in health care.

These are the first competitive grants announced under the Government’s $500 million Genomics Health Futures Mission.

Genomics uses a person’s own genetic makeup to analyse and understand their disease or cancer and unlock personalised treatments that specifically target their disease.

Grants have been awarded to 17 projects across three fields: cancers and diseases with high mortality and low survivability; paediatric acute care genomic research for critically ill children; and ethical, legal and social issues related to genomics in health care.

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The University of Melbourne’s SUPER-NEXT project will investigate cancers that have spread through the body from an unknown starting point which have an exceptionally poor survival rate. SUPER-NEXT will use genome profiling to help guide treatment of cancers with an unknown starting point and help resolve missing cancer type diagnosis. This project will help to drive broader adoption of genomics for all cancers of unknown primary patients.

Life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is much lower than other Australians, in part due to an apparent genetic predisposition to chronic diseases. The Queensland University of Technology will use whole genome sequencing of the Tiwi people to understand how their genetic makeup is associated with chronic disease. This will lead to improved early detection and targeted prevention strategies to reduce disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The University of South Australia will seek answers for families who have experienced or may be predisposed to perinatal death and stillbirth. The team will investigate the proportion of cases that could be diagnosed using genomic analyses leading to accurate diagnosis of the cause of perinatal death. This project will help health professionals better understand risk to future pregnancies and ensure families can get appropriate counselling.

The University of Queensland will aim to improve the diagnosis of sepsis through the use of genomic knowledge and technology by investigating critically ill children presenting with suspected sepsis to hospitals. The project addresses a key priority in health and can lead to better treatment of sepsis, reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics and improve patient outcomes leading to major cost savings.

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Macquarie University will investigate the social and financial costs to families of a child with severe intellectual disability that is genetic in origin. It will then determine the extent to which clinical genomics can contribute to improving these impacts. Families with a child with intellectual disability face many social and economic impacts, including financial pressure, relationship strain, poorer parental health and uncertainty about the future.

All 17 projects will harness the power of genomics to improve testing, diagnosis and treatment.

List of Projects

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