Government recognises potential of personalised medicine through $65 million grant program

The Australian government has recognised the potential of personalised medicine in a very public way by today announcing $65 million in competitive grants for genomic research into cures for cancer, childhood diseases and diseases with low survival rates.

The compounding pharmacy sector is applauding the announcement, viewing it as a step in the right direction towards a health care culture that treats the unique health care needs of the individual on a case-by-case basis. Custom medication, made specifically for the individual, is an area the compounding pharmacy sector has been specialising in for many years.

Matthew Bellgrove, Head Pharmacist at one of Australia’s biggest compounding pharmacies, National Custom Compounding, says if the grant program proves successful it could save countless lives as well as significantly cut health care costs in this country.

“Currently there are a lot of unknowns with many diseases and a lot of time and money is spent on medications and treatments where the outcome is very uncertain,” Matthew said, “People with serious disease like cancer cannot afford the time needed for a trial-and-error approach, and the expense to themselves and the public purse is significant.”

Matthew says he is excited about what the grant program might unearth. He hopes new information and  techniques will come to light that will help health care professionals identify exactly what’s going on in an individual’s body.

“For the first time we may have solid, valuable information – hard data at a cellular level. We could commence treatment with a much greater degree of certainty and develop custom-made medications and treatment plans created specifically for that individual.”

“The compounding pharmacy sector can play an important role in this – we can make up medication, from scratch, with precisely the right ratio of medicinal ingredients to target a disease as it presents in the individual,” Matthew said, “Commercially manufactured drugs do a great job, but they are ‘one-size-fits-all’, which may not bring about the best result in all cases.”

“No two people are alike, and neither is the way their immune systems deal with disease. Custom medicine, designed for the individual, is the way of the future.”

In the field of diagnostic medicine, genomics refers to the mapping and analysis of an individual’s DNA, to better understand their unique individual cellular make-up, and potentially develop a treatment for any diseases or health conditions they may be suffering.

As the government’s statement says, “The result (of genomic research) is a tailored treatment based on the individual and it means we can find out what medicine might work for a particular disease and then get it to the patient.”

Grant funding will be available for three years and will be awarded to genomic research projects focussed on:

  • Cancers and diseases where survival rates are currently very low
  • Serious childhood diseases
  • Ethical, legal and social issues associated with genomics in health care.

The grant program will also be encouraging applications from multidisciplinary teams working together to answer complex genomics research questions.

A National Health and Medical Research Office will be created to oversee the genomic research grant program and will sit under the government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). Professor Kathryn North AC has been appointed to lead a new genomics scientific sub-committee that will manage the project.

Grant applications will open 28 March 2019 and the Flagships: Pathogen Genomics Grants opportunity will open 14 May 2019. The Guidelines are available on the GrantConnect website

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