New human genome platform at ECU opens doors

Edith Cowan University's Centre for Precision Health has become the first research facility in WA to have the capabilities of mapping the entire human genome.

New human genome platform at ECU opens doors
Minister for Innovation Stephen Dawson cutting the ribbon of the new GeneTitan equipment.

First published on Edith Cowan University

The Centre for Precision Health (CPH) at Edith Cowan University (ECU) is the first research facility in Western Australia to use technology giving scientists the capabilities to investigate and interrogate the entire human genome.

The new equipment developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific is worth a combined estimated $900,000, installed at the Joondalup campus.

The centrepiece of this investment is the Thermo Fisher Scientific GeneTitanTM. This is the first time this technology will be used for human health and precision health applications in WA.

CPH Director and Professor of Translational Genomics at ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences, Professor Simon Laws said that the new platform would allow researchers to investigate up to a million different genetic variants in the human genome and would eliminate the need for research to go to third-party providers.

"This platform allows us to bring the technology and capabilities in-house, and that will increase our research capacity, improve our infrastructure and our overall research environment. This will benefit not just the CPH and ECU but also the broader Western Australian research ecosystem."

“Through this platform, we will further develop our understanding of the role that genetics play in determining an individual's risk for disease and likely rate of disease progression, as well as helping understand why people respond differently to disease interventions. That is a key component of precision health research," Professor Laws explained.

"Precision health remains a key priority for the Cook Government and represents a leap forward in addressing the unique health challenges of Western Australia’s diverse populations," said Medical Research Minister Stephen Dawson.

"This technology will bolster our ability to tailor healthcare solutions that meet the specific needs of all Western Australians.

"Investing in precision health is investing in a sustainable future for our healthcare system and I am confident the Centre for Precision Health at ECU will attract new talent to the State's medical and health research field."

The CPH consists of a multidisciplinary group of researchers focusing on applying a precision health model to ECU's key health priorities, which include cancer, neurological conditions, and chronic and metabolic conditions.

Instead of a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, the CPH focuses on an individual's unique biology and environment to inform personalised health interventions.

Professor Laws noted that the Thermo Fisher Scientific equipment would also allow researchers from other schools within ECU and organisations across Australia, both academic and industry, to investigate diverse sample types.

"ECU's School of Science can use the facilities for aqua and agricultural genetics, investigating areas such as crop and species diversity. This platform will allow us to use the power of genetics across a diverse spectrum of applications, not only in humans but also other species, in addition to agricultural purposes," Professor Laws said.

The instrumentation condenses hands-on processing time to as little as 30 minutes, and can operate unattended overnight, and enables high-quality, consistent data by processing multiple samples under identical conditions. The system is both scalable and adaptable, allowing for a range of human and agricultural applications.

Thermo Fisher Scientific's Vice President and General Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Domenic Stranieri, said he was excited about the possibilities that will be unlocked as a result of the ongoing partnership with Professor Laws and ECU.

"Enabling science is a core tenet of our mission and its through our relationship with ECU and the talented team of researchers led by Professor Laws that the true potential of this cutting-edge technology can be realised. The possibilities are amazing."

The new platform will be operational and open to collaborative and other by the end of May.


Professor Simon Laws

Professor Simon Laws

Simon is the Director for the Centre for Precision Health, an ECU Strategic Research Centre, and also Associate Dean (Medical and Exercise Sciences) and Professor of Translational Genomics in the School of Medical and Health Sciences