Genomics-focused biomedical research secures $6.5 million to address complex health challenges

L-R: University of Melbourne Associate Professor Richard Tothill from the Centre for Cancer Research and Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre received funding to develop a rapid liquid biopsy blood test to resolve the difficult diagnosis of cancers. 

Genomics-focused biomedical research breakthroughs in cancer, inherited eye disease and common gynaecological disorders are set to be accelerated by a $6.5 million funding boost.

The Advanced Genomics Collaboration (TAGC) has awarded the funding to four new Innovation Projects led by University of Melbourne researchers collaborating with partners across the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

The four projects will also gain access to powerful DNA sequencing technology in TAGC’s world-leading genomics hub made possible through a partnership between the University and global biotech company Illumina, with support from Invest Victoria.

The four projects:

  • Associate Professor Lauren Ayton and Dr Ceecee Britten-Jones from the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and the Centre for Eye Research Australia will establish a comprehensive patient dataset of inherited retinal diseases, providing information to drive new treatments and therapies for the most common cause of blindness in working-aged Australians.
  • Associate Professor Richard Tothill from the Centre for Cancer Research is partnering with Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson and clinicians and researchers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to develop a rapid multi-omic liquid biopsy blood test using whole genome sequencing to resolve the difficult diagnosis of cancer of unknown primary origin.
  • Professor Peter Rogers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology will perform next generation sequencing to find new solutions for patients with common endometrial related health problems such as abnormal menstrual bleeding, infertility and pregnancy disorders at The Women’s and Mercy Hospital.
  • Professor Niall Corcoran from the Department of Surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital will lead a study using genomic testing and predictive disease modelling to guide therapy and reduce the burden of prostate cancer diagnosis, which evidence suggests is over-diagnosed and over-treated in early disease.

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Professor Jane Gunn congratulated the projects.

“The TAGC Innovation Projects are a great example of industry and research coming together to advance the translation of genomic medicine,” Professor Gunn said.

“Access to new generation sequencing technology will allow researchers to unlock information embedded in our DNA and develop targeted solutions to complex health challenges.

“These exciting new projects will provide deeper insight into common diseases and health problems impacting many Australians, allowing them to benefit from the life-changing potential of genomics informed precision health care.”

Commercial Lead Oceania, Illumina Simon Giuliano said: “As a genomics pioneer, we have shown through focused and continued innovation how unlocking the power of the genome can exponentially improve the human condition.

“Congratulations to the recipients of the innovation project grants. It is great to see researchers being enabled through the TAGC, to use the power of next generation sequencing to explore new treatments and therapies in conditions and diseases such as inherited blindness, gynecological disorders and cancer.”