Funding windfall to accelerate kidney research

A Townsville-based researcher will lead a $3 million national research program, which aims to improve the lives of Australian families with genetic kidney disease.

James Cook University Professor of Medicine Andrew Mallett said of those who are identified as having kidney disease, about one in 10 of them, and up to 50 per cent of affected children, have an underlying genetic cause as to why they have developed the disease.

“For those patients, we’re fighting a few different battles. The first is detecting that they have kidney disease, particularly when you can lose almost all of your kidney function with no symptoms or signs,” he said.

“The second issue is identifying who are that 10 or 20 per cent who have an underlying genetic cause for why they’ve developed the disease, where it’s an issue that may not just affect them personally but also their family members.”

The KidGen National Genomics Program will receive $3 million over four years from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund via its Genomics Health Futures Mission.

Professor Mallett, who is also director of clinical research and a nephrologist at Townsville Hospital and Health Service and national director of KidGen, said the funding would help expand diagnoses from 45 per cent to 70 per cent of his patients.

“We know that there are probably other genes that are associated with kidney disease which we haven’t found yet and there are changes in genes we already know about that we can’t see with our standard diagnostic genomic sequencing,” Professor Mallett said.

“That raises questions as to whether there are genes that we should know about which may be causing kidney disease, and also, are other types of cutting edge genomic sequencing or data analysis able to find genetic changes that we just can’t see with our current methodologies.

“A program like KidGen helps us to begin to do that, particularly when we have a large national network of multi-disciplinary clinics already set up seeing hundreds of patients and families every single year.”

Professor Mallett added that one in three Australians are at risk of kidney disease and one in eight have kidney disease, with about a million Australians anticipated to have the disease and don’t even know it.

“The more we discover through our program, we know that down the track those discoveries will lead to new and innovative treatments,” he said.

“We anticipate that over this four-year funding program, there may be other technologies that will become available, which we can incorporate because we are so singularly focused on helping families and patients get answers.”

Contacts

Media enquiries: michael.serenc@jcu.edu.au

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