Advancing genomic healthcare in Australia

There is no doubt that the 2012 establishment of the Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine advanced genomic healthcare in Victoria - and ultimately for Australia. 

Program Area:
Medical Research
Location:
Melbourne
Amount:
$3,000,000
URL:
www.wehi.edu.au/research/research-fields/personalised-medicine
Project Dates:
January 2012 - January 2016
L-R: Institute Director Professor Doug Hilton; Executive Director Melbourne Genomics, Clara Gaff; Melbourne Genomics Board Chair, Catherine Walter and Kate McMahon.

Background

This was a collaborative project developed by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, with the intention of advancing genomic healthcare initially in Victoria – and ultimately throughout Australia.

The two Institutes recognised that there had been rapid developments in genome sequencing technology but Victoria was lagging behind.

Aims & objectives

The aim of this project was to conduct cutting-edge research into genomic medicine in order to personalise patient therapy and ultimately improve outcomes for Australian patients.

Approach

The Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine officially launched on 13 September 2012. A management and scientific committee was established to develop scientific collaborations, develop technological capability and strengthen genomics research across the two sites.

By making a major commitment to investing in the latest technology, The Ian Potter Foundation equipped researchers from across the Parkville medical research precinct to conduct cutting-edge genomic research that would have been impossible otherwise.

Laboratory findings from this research were rapidly translated into clinical practice through the establishment of the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance (MGHA).

Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance aims to improve the health of Victorians by integrating genomics into routine healthcare. The success and impact of MGHA inspired the establishment of the Queensland Health Genomics Alliance and ultimately led to the Federal Government funding the Australian Genomics Health Alliance.

Success

The Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine has exceeded expectations. The project has made a national contribution to enhancing our understanding of personalised therapeutic strategies for patients. It has also contributed to making healthcare more affordable by reducing the use of therapies that are less likely to benefit certain patient groups.

As a result of the early investment by the Ian Potter Foundation, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute were able to initiate the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance. The Victorian Government has since contributed $25 million in funding to the MGHA which, along with member contributions, now totals $35 million in funding across the next four years.

This means that right here in Victoria, we are now able to offer patients and their families the hope and reassurance that comes with a clear diagnosis of a previously unexplained medical problem. This includes conditions such as epilepsy, leukaemia, cancers, childhood diseases and inherited neuropathies (disorders affecting the peripheral nervous system).

Increasingly, we are also able to match patients to treatments based on gene variants – ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate treatment. This also means that complex or painful procedures are only carried out when they are most likely to be helpful.

Following on from Victoria’s leadership, in 2015 the National Health and Medical Research Council announced a national targeted call for implementing genomics into healthcare. Building on what had been learned from MGHA, the Australian Genomics Health Alliance (AGHA) was developed with 51-partner institutions. The AGHA bid, led by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, was successful and was awarded $25 million over five years (2016-2020) to develop evidence and policies to implement genomics into the Australian health care system.

Kate McMahon (pictured above) has shared her story of the powerful impact of advances in genomic diagnosis for her family.

Conclusion

The Ian Potter Foundation’s decision to generously support the establishment of the Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine exemplifies the vital role of philanthropy in innovation.

There is no doubt that the 2012 establishment of the Centre advanced genomic healthcare in Victoria – and ultimately for Australia.

This case study demonstrates the vital importance of early seed funding. The establishment of the Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine has been the driving force behind the use of the new genomic technology in Victoria and has fostered ongoing research collaborations between the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Ultimately, this led to the development of Melbourne Genomics and the Australian Genomics Health Alliance – both larger in scale and scope – which put Melbourne on the map as a leader in genomics. The Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine has propelled us into the exciting new age of genomic healthcare.

Susanne Williamson, Head of Fundraising, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

'The grant has been extremely successful and one that will be regarded as a legacy project for the Foundation.  The Ian Potter Centre for Genomics and Personalised Medicine has coalesced many partners around Victoria and indeed Australia and has paved the way for what is now considered the future of treatment: a personalised approach to identifying therapies that are more targeted and effective. Philanthropy at its best – when a risky but good idea becomes a new standard for medical treatment.'

Dr Alberto Furlan, Senior Program Manager

 

 

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