Genomic cancer research gets $61.2 million federal boost

Brandon How

In its latest announcement under the federal Modern Manufacturing Initiative, the government has funneled $61.2 million into a cancer drug project.

The co-funded grants come under the collaboration stream of the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) will support the $185 million Precision Oncology Screening Platform enabling Clinical Trials (PrOSPeCT). The project is being led by Omico, the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre based at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Of the 18 private and public sector partners working on PrOSPeCT, only four will enter a join- venture with Omico. These are pharmaceutical company Roche Australia, National Computational Infrastructure at the Australian National University, Children’s Cancer Institute Australia, and the Minderoo Foundation.

Industry Minister Angus Taylor announcing the funding at the Garvan Institute

Minister for Industry Angus Taylor said that this investment would help secure Australia’s clinical trial capabilities.

“Cutting-edge medical treatments such as genomics not only have the power to change lives, they also have the opportunity to transform the medical products sector for Australia. Precision medicine will be a critical part of health care delivery over the next decade,” Minister Taylor said.

“This project will help future-proof our health care, specifically for cancer treatment. Combining research and development, clinical trial networks and the manufacture of cancer drugs locally offers early access to potentially lifesaving treatments to Australian patients. These projects will also create highly-skilled jobs in the medical sector while reducing our reliance on overseas suppliers of vital medications.

“The Morrison Government is continuing to back medical manufacturing sector. Today’s announcement investing in leading-edge genomic treatments follows our deal with Moderna to come to Australia and build the first ever manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere.”

The project will bring genomic screening capability to adult and pediatric oncology networks nationally and use the collected data to support research and development of cancer treatment drugs. This health analytics platform will help deliver clinical trials of precision medicine and help identify appropriate therapies, based on their personal genetic information, for people afflicted by rare or uncommon cancers.

Omico chief executive officer and head of genomic cancer medicine at the Garvan Institute Professor David Thomas said PrOSPeCT improves the treatment options for people with rare cancers.

“Genomic medicine allows us to look at the genetics of a person’s cancer, rather than treating it based on location (e.g. breast, colon, skin). This allows us to understand inherited cancer risk and find more effective treatments for people with cancer,” Professor Thomas said.

“Through PrOSPeCT, we will fast-track the development, manufacturing and use of precision, personalised cancer treatments, changing lives, creating jobs and building Australia’s sovereign capability in drug development.”

The federal government estimates the project will create 200 jobs, with an an additional 20 new jobs each year.

In 2018, the Garvan Institute received $50 million over five years to expand its Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program to a national scale.

The MMI is supposed to help revitalize Australian manufacturing through co-investment grants across three streams: collaboration, translation, and integration.

Thursday’s announcement follows a string of investments announced under the MMI in the last month. This includes $155 million worth of grants for South Australia for the establishment of plant protein manufacturing hubs, an Australian Space Park, and a sovereign combat systems centre.

On Tuesday, $55 million was awarded to BlueScope Steel to for an advanced manufacturing precinct near Wollongong.

The windfall comes despite revelations on February 19 that less than 0.06 per cent of the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy had been released since it was announced in 2020, despite commitments of $292 million. Most of this falls under the MMI.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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