Boost for research into inherited and developmental diseases

20 Mar 2014

IMB researchers will be aided in generating new insights into some of the most serious diseases facing contemporary society by the merger of two of its foundational research divisions.

Professor Brandon Wainwright today announced the new division of Genomics of Development and Disease (GDD), which brings together 14 of the Institute’s 34 laboratories, strengthening IMB’s research programs and expertise in molecular genetics and development, and genomics and computational biology.

Professor Wainwright said the GDD division would be a powerful platform to extend the institute’s capabilities in harnessing genomic sequencing technologies to diagnose and develop personalised treatments for adults and children affected by inherited and developmental disease.

“IMB’s former divisions of Molecular Genetics and Development (MGD) and Genomics and Computational Biology (GCB) had a proven record of delivering new knowledge and clinical outcomes of global significance from their research,” Professor Wainwright said.

“Their discoveries have improved our understanding of, and progressed treatments for, cancer, disorders of sex development, and diseases of the heart, kidney, metabolism, vasculature, skeleton, testis and brain,” he said.

Research teams within IMB’s GDD Division – in partnership with academic, clinical and industry collaborators around the world – have the capacity to not only link a novel genetic mutation with a disease state, such as obesity or cancer, but also to begin to investigate how this disease state might be treated on an individual level and at a broader population level.

The new division will be led by Professor Melissa Little, who said the GDD division would encourage researchers to collaborate in new and exciting ways to fast-track their research.

“Within the division, we have developed a discovery pipeline that starts with conducting human genome sequencing, and moves through to identifying novel genetic mutations, and validating research findings using animal models and stem cells,” Professor Little said.

“Ultimately, we hope our research will improve quality of life for all Australians affected by developmental and inherited diseases, many of which remain understudied and poorly understood,” she said.

Professor Wainwright thanked former MGD Division Head Professor Peter Koopman, and former GCB Division Head Professor Mark Ragan for their dedication.

“Both Peter and Mark have done an outstanding job of leading their respective divisions over the years, helping to attract and retain leading laboratory heads and competitive grant funding from around the world.

“I am confident our new division, led capably by Melissa, will make a valuable contribution to the national biomedical research sector and our shared efforts to better understand devastating inherited and developmental diseases,” Professor Wainwright said.

Read more about IMB’s new division, and meet the full divisional research team here.