Perkins part of future focus on genomic health

Researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research will contribute to scientific understanding of how the genes passed down from our parents will determine our health - and the results are expected to change the future of medicine in Australia.

Professors Nigel Laing, Aleksandra Filipovska and Peter Leedman
Professor Nigel Laing, Professor Aleksandra Filipovska and
Professor Peter Leedman

A $25 million, five year grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will fund the Australian Genomic Health Alliance, supporting genomic research with a focus on rare diseases and cancer.

“Over the past few years there have been quantum leaps in technology such as next-generation-sequencing, which means that human genomes can be sequenced at high speed for less cost,” said Perkins Director, Professor Peter Leedman.

He said the work would prepare Australia for a future of genomic medicine, which uses information about an individual patient’s genetic makeup to create personalised treatments for inherited diseases.

“The Perkins is delighted to be involved in this work which will have a major impact on diagnosing Australians with inherited diseases,” he said.

Perkins Professor Nigel Laing AO is co-leader with Professor Leedman in the “Diagnostics and Translation” program within the Alliance.

Professor Laing’s team of medical researchers were pioneers in next-generation sequencing diagnostics in neurogenetic diseases, which affect the way muscles function.

“We set up one national referral centre for all neuromuscular diseases here in Western Australia and this has now set the stage for that work to be developed across Australia for all other genetic disorders,” he said.

“The Alliance will allow us to work out how Australian centres can work together on genomic medicine. Many factors need to be considered, ranging from diagnostics to data bases, economics and the scientific workforce who will need training,” he said.

He said the grant would result in more than just a strategy for Australian health and medicine.

“During the next five years we will be finding answers which will help with the diagnosis of different diseases among families,” he said. “We will look at a person’s genetic make-up and be able to work out what’s impinging on their health.”

Another Perkins Laboratory Head, Professor Aleksandra Filipovska, will have an important role in the program, using her expertise in mitochondrial disease. 

Read this opinion piece in the Financial Review Money Makes Research Go Round.

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