Backstage in the cancer revolution: Australian-first genomics hub to pioneer new tools for personalised medicine

Scientists will be able to harness the power of big data to unravel the genetics of cancer on a scale not seen before in Australia, with the launch of the Genomics Innovation Hub, a collaborative effort led by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Genomics Research Facility (AGRF), bringing together five powerhouses of medical research.

The Genomics Innovation Hub, led by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Genomics Research Facility (AGRF), will provide critical next-generation technology and analytics capacity that will ultimately pave the way for personalised treatments based on patients’ genetic profiles. 

The University of Melbourne’s Director of Cancer Research and renowned pancreatic cancer researcher, Sean Grimmond, said the Hub would see Australia join an international effort to transform cancer research in diagnostics, technology, bioinformatics and industry partnerships and help cross the “cancer technology  chasm”. 

“This global convergence around genomics is on a par with the cooperation we saw in World War II to break the Enigma code,” Professor Grimmond said. “In global terms, Australia has been late to the genomics revolution, so early access to disruptive technologies is crucial to Australia’s global competitive advantage.”

“Genome centres overseas have devoted considerable investment to these big data approaches. This Hub will ensure Australia does not miss out on advances in genomic-driven advances in drug development and oncology, and will lay the foundations for advances in the global effort to transform cancer research and treatment.

“Traditionally, we’ve based treatments around the type of cancer, and not the person. We know the underlying root causes can be different from person to person, and genomics helps us get to the fundamentals of these different responses.”

Hub partners include the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Dr Kirby Siemering, Director of Genomics Innovation at AGRF, said more than ever, international collaboration was the key to developing genomic technologies. “The Hub will enable us to share research and resources in a way that no single institution can do on its own. We’ll acquire, test and develop new and disruptive technologies that are crucial for Australia to be at the forefront of medical research and patient care.” 

The Hub is further strengthened through the support of Bioplatforms Australia and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

This article first appeared on The Melbourne Newsroom on 16 July 2016. Click here to view the original.