Australian Genomics was launched as the Australian Genomics Health Alliance in 2016 with a $25 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It was established to help bridge the gap between basic genomic research and its clinical application by building the evidence to inform national health policy as genomic medicine becomes standard of care in Australia. At the time, genomic sequencing was fast gaining traction as a valuable diagnostic tool in many countries, enabled by rapid advances in sequencing technologies and data capture.
Rapid growth and expansion
The value of the network was clear: in the first five years we grew to include 32 clinical sites, 80 organisational partners and 440 investigators. Through our flagship projects spanning 13 rare disease and six cancer cohorts, we recruited almost 5000 study participants who provided us with the real time data for applying genomics to clinical practice.
Running in parallel to the flagship projects were a series of programs that would go on to build the foundational infrastructure for a nationally consistent approach to the use of genomic testing in mainstream healthcare. These programs centred around key areas:
- A national diagnostic and research network
- A national approach to data federation and analysis
- Evaluation, policy and ethics
- Workforce and education
Creating space for collaboration
Using the expertise of the collaborative network through these programs and informed by areas of greatest need, we developed clinical and research-driven resources and tools – from data capture, analysis and sharing tools through to patient consent and engagement materials. Developing standards was a key focus too, with data governance and genomics education guidelines now being broadly applied. Many of these tools are now being offered for use by other publicly funded genomics research programs in Australia.
Our management portfolio expanded as we added research programs supported by the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund. These included the Australian Reproductive Genetic Carrier Screening study, Mackenzie’s Mission, and the Leukodystrophies and Cardiac Genetics Disorders Flagships, with a combined additional government investment of $29 million.
We also solidified leadership in genomics on a global level, through our participation and leadership in the Global Alliance for Genomics in Health, and as one of the two founding organisational members of the Genomics in Health Implementation Forum.
Backed by our network and our experience of the first five years, we have moved to a new phase with new objectives, where our tools and resources and research are ready to be adopted, built upon and refined as the use of genomic technologies continues to advance in Australia.