July 5, 2012  Print

Australian research laboratory and biobank will allow scientists to move to the forefront of medicine, to find futuristic ways to repair defective genes and use cells to repair the body.

The Ian Potter Foundation, an Australian philanthropic organisation that supports and funds initiatives of excellence and innovation across Australia, together with the Thyne Reid Foundation, and Westmead Medical Research Foundation have partnered to help fund two new facilities in Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research’s new building.

“Expanding these facilities will position Westmead’s health campus to become the leading centre in Australia and an internationally competitive centre for cell production and clinical translational research in adoptive immunotherapy,” said Mrs Janet Hirst, CEO of The Ian Potter Foundation.

As part of the expansion of Westmead Millennium Institute’s research facilities on the Westmead campus, the new Human Applications Laboratory will be used to find new ways to treat leukaemia, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Scientists will examine how to increase pancreatic Islet cell production, for experimental treatment of Type 1 diabetes presently limited by capacity to just four or five transplant patients a year.

The new lab will also equip Westmead Millennium Institute to develop highly innovative and progressive gene and stem cell therapy addressing the causes of arrhythmia and repairing heart failure. The new lab will be supported by a state-of-the-art computerised Cell and DNA biobank for access by research projects across Australia.

“Scientists solved the genetic code for humans some years ago, but that took a huge amount of money and effort. Soon, we’ll be able to find out an individual person’s genetic code for under $1,000 in a few minutes,” said Westmead Millennium Institute’s director, Professor Tony Cunningham.

“These facilities will give us a way of doing something useful with the genetic information we are now able to gather more easily. Having found the genes that are defective, we need a way of repairing them, and that’s one of the fields these  facilities will help our researchers to do. We are also moving into the era of replacing defective cells and tissues with human cells grown in the test tube in their normal configuration.

“This breaks the mould of the types of medicine that we’ve used in the past. This is not just new drugs. This is the future of medicine.

"These facilities will be open to all relevant researchers on this campus and elsewhere, helping both children and adults.

“We are very grateful to The Ian Potter Foundation for supporting the development of the Human Applications Laboratory, for the Thyne Reid Foundation for supporting the development of a Cell and DNA Biobank and also thank the Westmead Medical Research Foundation and its kind supporters for their contribution to these projects.”