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Professor Kathryn North plays a leading role in the global approach to personalised medicine

Institute News
Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:30pm
Institute Director Professor Kathryn North continues to cement Murdoch Children's’ role as a key player in genomics and personalised medicine, as Vice Chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and Chair of the Clinical Working Group.

The Alliance is a non-profit organisation formed in 2013, aiming to accelerate the potential of genomic medicine to advance health care globally. It brings together over 220 leading institutions, including Murdoch Children's. A large part of the Alliance’s work concentrates on the management, storage and sharing of millions of genome and medical records between academic institutions and geographic regions.

It is this sharing and collaborative philosophy that will help the Alliance realise its goal, but issues around privacy mean data sharing has been something the science world has previously been reluctant to do.

There is already a huge amount of genomic data in existence, however, no way to access it- until now. Last year, the Alliance launched a basic search engine for DNA, which searches through existing public databases of human genomes. Other technology, including a system called MatchMaker Exchange, offer a way to automate the comparison of DNA from sick people around the world. The next step is to develop a network so that these DNA databases can communicate with each other.

Professor North says that data sharing is crucial to the success of the Alliance. “In order to find the causes of both common and rare diseases, we need to analyse thousands, if not millions, of genomes. No one institute or region can go it alone- we need a truly global approach if we are to make genomic medicine a regular part of health care.”

The MIT Technology Review, one of the world's foremost technology publications, has hailed the work of the Global Alliance, labelling the ability to share and network genomic information “a top technology breakthrough”.

Read the article here