Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share benefits of genomic medicine

In an Australian first, Queensland researchers have released Genomic Partnerships – a set of guidelines to help genomic health researchers work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in a way that respects cultural protocols.

The genomics research guidelines were developed by researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland, with funding from Queensland Health’s $25 million health genomics investment program: Queensland Genomics.

Genomics can be used to predict disease risk, diagnose disease more accurately, and guide treatment. Using genomics in healthcare is expected to grow exponentially in coming years to a personalised medicine approach, where patients are treated based on their specific genomic information rather than the uniform approach currently used.

Executive Director of Queensland Genomics David Bunker said the guidelines were developed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would share in the future benefits of genomic medicine.

“Advances in healthcare like genomic medicine have the potential to hugely benefit health consumers globally, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at risk of being left out of these health benefits,” he said.

“One reason is that health researchers are not engaging with these communities due to a lack of awareness of how to conduct genomics research in such settings.

“If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not engaged in this healthcare revolution, the burden of disease may grow for these communities, further widening the gap.”

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said a 2014 report had found that rates of disease and injury among Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more than double those in the non-Indigenous population.

“At QIMR Berghofer we established a specific multi-disciplinary team – led by Greg Pratt, who is an indigenous man – dedicated to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure those communities benefit from health research,” Professor Gannon said.

“We developed Genomic Partnerships to help researchers undertaking genomic research in collaboration with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

“Genomic Partnerships was informed by a series of consultations and engagement with stakeholders and community members across Queensland.”

Genomic Partnerships is available on the QIMR Berghofer website at: https://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/our-research/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-health/

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