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HomeminewsIndigenous Alliance Advances Genomics

Indigenous Alliance Advances Genomics

Indigenous people from around Australia have aligned to advance our understanding of genomic medicine.

The Australian Alliance for Indigenous Genomics (ALIGN) launched in July 2023 stating that it “will bring the benefits of genomics medicine to Indigenous Australians, who still have a life expectancy 10 years less than the general population”.

“Eighty per cent of this life expectancy gap is due to chronic disease,” said Alex Brown, Lead of The Australian Alliance for Indigenous Genomics (ALIGN) and Professor of Indigenous Genomics at the Telethon Kids Institute and the Australian National University. Prof Brown is a member of the Yuin Nation and grew up on the NSW South Coast.

“Australia is on the cusp of a new era in personalised medicine that will bring deeper insights into common diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” he said.

“ALIGN is a commitment designed by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people, to offer the benefit of genomic medicine to all. Its bbasic premise is ‘nothing about us, without us’. This is critical to ensure equity is achieved in health outcomes,” said Prof Brown.

Dr Hardip Patel, National Centre for Indigenous Genomics Bioinformatics Lead at Australian National University, said long-term continuous partnerships with Indigenous communities for genomics research would facilitate the transition of genomics medicine from diagnosis and treatment to predictive and preventative.

ALIGN will be governed by an Indigenous Council to ensure every ‘gift’ of DNA provided by Indigenous Australians is treated with respect.

To progress this project, a team at Telethon Kids Institute Adelaide will oversee the scientific and operational coordination of the alliance teams. Canberra researchers will lead a team to identify and understand genomes of Indigenous Australians to better deliver precision health care to them.

NSW researchers will use genomic medicine to identify new and personalised treatments for Indigenous Australians with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A Brisbane team will explore health service and system needs that support genomic medicine to determine which treatments are best suited to Indigenous patients. A Victorian team of scientists will use genomic medicine to better understand and treat immune-related disorders in Indigenous Australians. Finally, a Perth team will use advances in genomic medicine to continue and strengthen their work to unlock better health outcomes for an estimated 40,000 Indigenous Australians suffering from rare diseases.