Genomics Centre sets SA as leader in field

A state-of-the-art centre for genomics research is being established in South Australia, as a result of the combined expertise and resources of leading institutions including Flinders University.  

The South Australian Genomics Centre (SAGC) will open its doors on July 1 this year thanks to an investment of more than $7 million, including $2 million from Bioplatforms Australia (BPA) through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

The SAGC comprises six founding partners – SAHMRI, Flinders University, University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia,  the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and the Australian Genome Research Facility (AGRF) – who are collectively investing funding, equipment and staff totalling more than $5.6 million.

Flinders University’s Professor David Lynn, a Program Director at SAHMRI, will be the SAGC’s interim Scientific Director until a permanent Scientific Director and Centre Manager are appointed.

Professor David Lynn is the interim Scientific Director of the newly announced SA Genomics Centre

“The SAGC represents a major new collaborative initiative to support genomics and bioinformatics research in South Australia across all disciplines from environmental, plant and agricultural research to human health,” he said.

The Centre will be based at SAHMRI’s distinctive North Terrace building while also operating from AGRF’s site on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus, UniSA’s Centre for Cancer Biology Cancer Genomics Facility and Flinders University’s Genomics Facility.

Establishment of the SAGC has been more than a year in the planning, championed by Professor Lynn alongside the General Manager of Adelaide BioMed City (ABMC), Yvette Van Eenennaam.

“Collaboration between partners is the very essence of why ABMC exists,” Mrs Van Eenennaam said. “This is a classic demonstration of coming together to be stronger than the sum of our parts.”

“The benefits of this collaboration will be many and wide-ranging. Our genome plays a vital role in our health, our risk of disease and how we respond to treatment. The accumulation of genomic big data will enable greater understanding of all aspects of health and disease. Tremendous advances have been made in the field of DNA sequencing, but this is really just the beginning.”

Genomics is the study of an organism’s genome – the complete set of genes that make up that animal, plant or microbe. It also investigates how genes are turned on and off and how they interact with each other and their environment.

Genomics generates a phenomenal amount of data. Bioinformatics is the science of storing, processing and analysing that data and also spans comparative, evolutionary and systems biology analyses.

Flinders University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Robert Saint, said the SAGC will harness the strengths of the state’s genomics experts to collectively elevate Australia’s research in this important field.

“Society is benefiting from significant improvements as we build understanding of genomics and use this knowledge to sustain biodiversity and improve health and wellbeing.

“Our state has long-standing strengths in gene-related research including Flinders University’s impressive tradition of fundamental discoveries and getting these discoveries into the community to improve people’s health, prevent disease and manage our environment” he said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint

“Our ongoing work identifying genetic factors in areas such as understanding gut health, mental health and biodiversity of our rivers and oceans will bring real benefits to society. 

“The SAGC will amplify the impact of these studies and, more generally, South Australia’s research strengths in genomics and bioinformatics to help more people live healthier, better lives” Professor Saint said.

UniSA’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington agreed, adding “UniSA is delighted to be able to advance critical projects that will help us to better understand and treat epilepsy, neonatal health and cancer, as well as diagnostics and patterns of health and disease that take into account human, animal and environmental factors.” 

Professor Anton Middelberg, the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Research at the University of Adelaide, said he’s excited by the individual and collaborative research opportunities the SAGC will create, observing “All researchers, irrespective of the research area, will have equitable access to this facility – the aim is to create new engagement opportunities between researchers and facilitate further integration between genomics user groups and bioinformatics experts.”

Professor Lynn said the SAGC will see SA build on its solid foundations of genomics and bioinformatics science that have been made possible by generous philanthropic support and the ongoing backing of BPA.

“These fields are now critical tools in biology and medicine,” he said. “By consolidating our expertise and resources we are positioning South Australia as a leader in complex biology with a centre that will serve research teams locally, nationally and internationally.”

The SAGC will also generate more opportunities for SA researchers to collaborate with colleagues around Australia and the world.

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