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Australia's NHMRC Provides Support for Genomics Programs

By Matt Jones

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Australian government has awarded A$673.3 million (US$689.2 million) in new grants, including tens of millions of dollars to fund new research involving genomics and molecular biology focused on human health and medicine.

The National Health and Medical Research Council said yesterday that the new round of awards, the largest single investment in grants in Australian history, will fund 1,140 grants to support researchers, large-scale research projects, and institutions across the continent.

The funding will support new centers, new programs, and a number of individual investigators pursuing genomics directly or using 'omics approaches to achieve their research goals.

"The grants announced today will ensure that young researchers have a solid foundation for their future career, experienced researchers can continue to run innovative research projects and clinicians can integrate their clinical skills into research practice," Australia's Minister for Mental Health and Aging, Mark Butler, said in a statement.

Three of the NHMRC's large new program grants will support genomics-based medical studies.

A program at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will receive A$17.1 million to study blood cell formation and function. The group will combine genetic and genomic approaches with biochemistry and cell biology, as well as translational studies in humans, to gain an understanding of cell control and develop new avenues for therapies for blood cell diseases like leukemia.

Another will provide A$5.6 million to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research to determine susceptibility and progression in breast cancer. Specifically, this program will study the mechanisms that predispose some women to develop breast cancer and how DNA repair proteins are involved in the process, with the aim of enabling development of new diagnostics and treatments.

The Australian National University will use A$15.7 million to lead a partnership to study the molecular and cellular basis of inflammatory and immunodeficiency diseases, inflammation, allergy, and immunodeficiency, with the aim of developing new ways to diagnose, prevent, or treat them.

The new grants also will fund the creation of three new centers of research excellence that will engage in 'omics-based science and bioinformatics including: A$2.5 million to the University of Western Australia for the translation of genetic eye research; A$2.5 million to the University of Melbourne for a Centre for Translational Pathology Research and Training; and A$2.5 million to the Murdoch Children's Research Institute to fund The Victorian Centre for Applied Biostatistics.

Some of the new project grants NHMRC has funded include:

• A$482,000 to the University of Western Australia for a genome-wide association study of juvenile-onset myopia;

• A$958,000 to the University of Queensland to fund a comprehensive genomic analysis of esophageal adenocarcinoma in search of biomarkers for progression, prognosis, and treatment;

• A$624,000 to the University of Melbourne to integrate genetic testing for risk associated genomic variants and predisposition genes linked to high risk of breast cancer in families;

• A$434,000 to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for genomic analysis in haematopoietic stem cells;

• A$570,000 to the University of Adelaide to assess markers of genomic instability for the prediction of treatment response in chronic myeloid leukemia;

• A$600,000 to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in a study focused on embryonic development and genome maintenance;

• A$849,000 to QIMR for a genomic study of predictors of refractory ulcerative colitis and its response to treatment;

• A$681,000 to QIMR to extend a two-stage, genome-wide association study of endometrial cancer and to validate risk-associated alleles and identify cancer-risk loci;

• A$634,000 for GWAS studies related to breast and prostate cancers using high-performance supercomputing.

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