Genomics innovation hub to drive research and clinical impact

Professor Sean Grimmond and team pictured in the lab with a genome sequencing machine
The Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub will put the University’s researchers, students and precinct partners at the forefront of the global genomics revolution. Image: Professor Sean Grimmond and colleagues with a genome sequencer at the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research

The University of Melbourne, together with international genomics company, Illumina, have welcomed the Victorian Government’s support to establish a $60 million world-leading genomics hub in Victoria.

The Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub will be a key driver in building workforces and businesses of the future, delivering first-hand, practical experience and fostering a pipeline of commercially focused genomics innovation projects.

The investment will capitalise on the University’s world-leading medical and scientific research to transform the health and biomedical sector, delivering improved health outcomes for all Victorians.

The hub will lift local genomics research and clinical trials to a global scale and quality by establishing three core platforms in clinical genomics, bioinformatics, and health economics.

These three platforms will be underpinned by cloud-based informatics infrastructure enabling the delivery of genomics at scale for flagship and future innovation projects.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne are leading the first two flagship genomic innovation projects:

  • Developing new genomic-based technologies for simpler and more effective diagnosis of the most challenging to treat cancer cases, led by the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research; and
  • A novel platform to understand the varied types of disease progression of patients with COVID-19, which will help to identify best suited treatments for individual patients, led by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell said that the investment will accelerate the translation and commercialisation of biomedical research.

“Our partnership with Illumina is bridging the gap between the genomics industry and research, driving workforce development, research translation and the implementation of genomics into routine clinical care,” Professor Maskell said.

“The Doherty Institute’s personalised COVID-19 response project is just one example of how this partnership will enable the rapid translation of research to act quickly and effectively on health threats such as cancer and infectious disease.

“The Victorian Government’s investment in the Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub presents an incredible opportunity for our researchers, students and precinct partners to be at the forefront of the global genomics revolution.”

Illumina Vice President and General Manager of Asia Pacific and Japan, Gretchen Weightman said the opening of the Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub is a key milestone in its partnership with the University of Melbourne.

“Illumina’s comprehensive technologies, coupled with the University’s expertise will enable researchers to redefine how healthcare is delivered through genomics, giving Victoria the opportunity to spearhead genomics innovation at a global level,” Ms Weightman said.

Clinical genomics lead and Director of the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research, Professor Sean Grimmond said that the investment will secure Victoria’s place as a world leader in genomics and cancer research.

“Our application of genomics will transform healthcare and research, providing systems to support state-wide rollout of affordable whole-genome sequencing for cancer and critical disease patients,” Professor Grimmond said.

“Access to Illumina’s expertise will provide the guidance our researchers need to unlock Victoria’s genomics research for global biotechnology development opportunities, through real-world, practical hands-on training and sequencing experience.”

The Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub builds on a partnership established by the University of Melbourne and Illumina in February 2019, focusing on genomics-based biomedical research and innovation in the detection and management of diseases such as cancer.

The Illumina-University of Melbourne Genomics Hub is the first proposal from a university to secure funding from the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, which was developed in response to the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Victorian universities.

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