Deakin academic joins Genomics Health Futures Mission

Research news
21 May 2018

Deakin University medical and cultural anthropologist Professor Emma Kowal has been appointed to an expert advisory committee for the landmark Genomics Health Futures Mission.

The $500 million Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission is the centrepiece of the Federal Government’s $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan announced in the 2018-19 Budget.

Funded through the Medical Research Future Fund, the Genomics Health Futures Mission will help Australians to live longer and better through genomics technology, which will enable practitioners to tailor treatment for each patient, monitor and manage risk, and potentially cure a wide range of diseases.

Led by Professor Ian Frazer AC, the 13–member Genomics Health Futures Mission Steering Committee brings together eminent researchers and clinicians, legal, ethical, consumer and community, and data experts who will develop an operational plan for the Mission.

Professor Kowal, a researcher with Deakin’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) said she was excited and honoured to be invited to join the Committee, and that Australia was in a position to lead the world in making sure that medical treatments based on genomics were effective and equitable.

“It’s wonderful to see Deakin’s expertise, particularly in the interface between science and society, recognised in this appointment,” she said.
“Everyone is unique and part of that unique story is told in our genomes. We are understanding more and more about the role it plays in our individual susceptibility to disease and how the effectiveness of treatment can depend on your particular genetic code. Treatments tailored to specific individuals based on their genes, known as precision medicine, offer enormous potential for much earlier diagnosis of rare genetic conditions, for example, which can make the difference between living a healthy life or one affected by illness.

“However, it will be important to ensure the benefit of this technology is widely spread amongst Australians and that ethical, legal and social research is addressed alongside it to ensure new treatments and approaches don’t produce unforeseen negative effects.”

Professor Kowal is a former medical doctor and public health researcher in Indigenous health settings in Australia. Her work focuses on two major anthropological streams: indigenous health and Australian race relations; and the social study of genomics, biomedical research, bioethics and public health, particularly in understanding the implications of the increasing use of genetic science for Indigenous health and ancestry.

She is Convenor of the Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network, Convener of Deakin’s Science and Society Network and founding Deputy Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, the first Indigenous-governed genome facility in the world.

The first Genomics Health Futures Mission project will be ‘Mackenzie’s Mission’, with $20 million being provided for a pre-conception screening trial for rare and debilitating birth disorders including Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Fragile X and Cystic Fibrosis.

By Deakin Research

For all media enquiries please contact Deakin’s media team.

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Medical and cultural anthropologist Professor Emma Kowal has been appointed to an expert advisory committee for the Genomics Health Futures Mission.

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Medical and cultural anthropologist Professor Emma Kowal has been appointed to an expert advisory committee for the Genomics Health Futures Mission.

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