New Canberra gene technology gets $7 million budget boost
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New Canberra gene technology gets $7 million budget boost

What if your DNA held the key to finding a cure for any illness?

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but Canberrans could soon see their genes used to tailor personalised treatments for a range of diseases.

Manager of ACRF biomolecular resource facility Stephanie Palmer. The ACT government will invest $7.3 million in new gene technology in this year's budget.

Manager of ACRF biomolecular resource facility Stephanie Palmer. The ACT government will invest $7.3 million in new gene technology in this year's budget. Credit:Elesa Kurtz

The ACT government will spend $7.3 million on new gene technology which could open the door to drug therapies that can be adapted to individual patients based on their genetics and medical conditions.

Canberra Clinical Genomics director Professor Matthew Cook from ANU said the new centre would make a real difference to patients' lives.

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The research could have the potential to help people suffering from a wide range of illnesses, from children with "devastating diseases" to those with inflammatory illnesses and even cancer.

"It can guide real decisions about which particular medicines a patient might receive so there are many different patient groups that might be affected," Professor Cook said.

"This funding is all about the transition from a discovery platform to practical application in the clinic and that's very exciting and that's one of the main reasons we do medical research so that we can start to apply [it] in the real world, in the clinic, in the hospital."

Health Minister Simon Corbell said human genome science had dramatically reshaped medicine.

"For the first time we can focus on the delivery of clinical care that takes account of our individual genome and the vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses that it presents for each of us," he said.

Doctors would be able to tailor care to the individual needs of their patients with personalised medicines, which also had the potential to decrease the number of tests a person might need to reach a diagnosis, he said.

The program would put Canberra at the "cutting edge" of "exciting new clinical opportunities", Mr Corbell said.

"It's about better health care, building on our research and science knowledge here right in Canberra and it also means a further boost to what is world leading research," he said.

Professor Cook said the centre's work would place Canberra at the forefront of research into genomes and personalised medicine.

"It's very important that we have both the capacity to do this sort of research and are making discoveries in it," he said.

The new Clinical Genomic Service, announced on Tuesday, will be funded in next week's ACT budget and will operate as a partnership between ANU and ACT Health.

Natasha Boddy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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