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$6 million grant will accelerate Australian research into the genetic causes of rare diseases

Patients will be matched with Australia’s best researchers and clinicians to develop new treatments

30 June 2021

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s Professor Sally Dunwoodie has welcomed funding to the Australian Functional Genomics Network (AFGN) which it is hoped will lead to better diagnoses and treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the awarding of the $6 million Genomics Health Futures Mission grant to the AFGN, which is chaired by Professor Dunwoodie and Professor Andrew Sinclair from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. This is being funded through the Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Professor Dunwoodie says the grant will significantly enhance the work of the AFGN, which aims to identify the key disease-causing mutations in the human genome and provide families with a genetic diagnosis. 

Professor Dunwoodie says: “The rapid advancement in gene sequencing has led to an explosion in a number of genetic variants that have been identified in patients. But that’s also created a problem because not all of these variants are associated with causing disease.

“Our network aims to tackle this by matching patients via their clinicians with researchers who work on these genes and model the diseases. We can then fast-track studies to zero in on the mutations that are actually causing the disease, leading to genetic diagnoses for families, opportunities to understand the disease, and possibly develop treatments.” 

Professor Dunwoodie, who leads the Congenital Heart Disease Research Program at the Institute, says she hopes the funding will provide answers to families across Australia.

Congenital heart disease affects one in 100 babies, but the cause for the vast majority of cases still remains unaccounted for. We hope to be able to provide hope and answers for families across Australia in the future.”

Professor Sinclair adds: “The $6 million of funding from the MRFF will allow us to harness the resources of over 200 model organism researchers across Australia to increase our understanding of gene variants that may cause disease. This will lead to improved diagnostic rates but also provide insights into effective treatment options.”

The AFGN, which is based in Melbourne, is a national consortium that will foster collaboration between researchers, human geneticists, and clinicians. 

It has more than 2280 genes listed in its registry which can be matched to the profiles of more than 230 clinical and research teams from across Australia, including those at the Institute.

Learn more about the Australian Functional Genomics Network (AFGN).

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For all media enquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Julia Timms
Head, Media & Communications 
j.timms@victorchang.edu.au
0457 517 355

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