Research institutes across South Australia are combining their expertise and resources to establish a state-of-the-art centre for genomics in SA.
The South Australian Genomics Centre (SAGC) will open its doors on July 1 this year thanks to an investment of more than $7 million, including $2 million from Bioplatforms Australia (BPA) through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.
The SAGC comprises six founding partners – SAHMRI, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, Flinders University, the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and the Australian Genome Research Facility (AGRF) – who are collectively investing funding, equipment and staff totalling more than $5.6 million.
Professor David Lynn, a Program Director at SAHMRI and Flinders University Professor, will be the SAGC’s interim Scientific Director until a permanent Scientific Director and Centre Manager are appointed.
"This is a major new collaborative initiative to support genomics and bioinformatics research in South Australia across all disciplines from environmental, plant and agricultural research to human health,” he said.
The Centre will be based at SAHMRI’s distinctive North Terrace building while also operating from AGRF’s site on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus, UniSA’s Centre for Cancer Biology Cancer Genomics Facility and Flinders University’s Genomics Facility.
SAHMRI Executive Director, Professor Steve Wesselingh, says its an honour to host the SAGC.
“The SAGC represents a significant commitment to SAHMRI’s core philosophy of collaboration with benefits that span all of SA’s research community and indeed the community generally,” he said.
“Sharing these facilities and expertise means we all save on machinery and other equipment costs which can be significant. Importantly, the centre will also directly and indirectly create jobs. Initially more than 10 staff will be based at the SAGC and we expect that to expand as our state strengthens its reputation and capacity in these fields.”
Establishment of the SAGC has been more than a year in the planning, championed by Professor Lynn alongside the General Manager of Adelaide BioMed City (ABMC), Yvette Van Eenennaam.
“Collaboration between partners is the very essence of why ABMC exists,” Mrs Van Eenennaam said. “This is a classic demonstration of coming together to be stronger than the sum of our parts.”
“The benefits of this collaboration will be many and wide-ranging. Our genome plays a vital role in our health, our risk of disease and how we respond to treatment. The accumulation of genomic big data will enable greater understanding of all aspects of health and disease. Tremendous advances have been made in the field of DNA sequencing, but this is really just the beginning.”
Genomics is the study of an organism’s genome – the complete set of genes that make up that animal, plant or microbe. It also investigates how genes are turned on and off and how they interact with each other and their environment.
Genomics generates a phenomenal amount of data. Bioinformatics is the science of storing, processing and analysing that data and also spans comparative, evolutionary and systems biology analyses.
Flinders University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Robert Saint, says the SAGC will harness the strengths of the state’s genomics experts to collectively elevate Australia’s research in this important field.
“Our state has long-standing strengths in gene-related research,” he said. “Our ongoing work identifying genetic factors in areas such as understanding gut health, mental health and biodiversity of our rivers and oceans will bring real benefits to society.”
Professor Anton Middelberg, the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Research at the University of Adelaide, says he’s excited by the individual and collaborative research opportunities the SAGC will create.
“All researchers, irrespective of the research area, will have equitable access to this facility,” he said.
“The aim is to create new engagement opportunities between researchers and facilitate further integration between genomics user groups and bioinformatics experts.”
Professor Lynn says the SAGC will see SA build on its solid foundations of genomics and bioinformatics science that have been made possible by generous philanthropic support and the ongoing backing of BPA.
“These fields are now critical tools in biology and medicine,” he said. “By consolidating our expertise and resources we are positioning South Australia as a leader in complex biology with a centre that will serve research teams locally, nationally and internationally.”
The SAGC will also generate more opportunities for SA researchers to collaborate with colleagues around Australia and the world.
Quotes attributable to founding partner representatives:
Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington – University of South Australia, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise
“The SAGC initiative provides a wonderful opportunity for teams in SA to understand the drivers of health for individuals and wider society. UniSA is delighted to be able to advance critical projects that will help us to better understand and treat epilepsy, neonatal health and cancer, as well as diagnostics and patterns of health and disease that take into account human, animal and environmental factors. This has been made possible through significant collaborations and support with research partners in South Australia and Bioplatforms Australia and we thank SAHMRI for driving this project forward.”
Professor Robert Saint – Flinders University, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)
“Society is benefiting from significant improvements as we build understanding of genomics and use this knowledge to sustain biodiversity and improve health and wellbeing. Our state has long-standing strengths in gene-related research including Flinders University’s impressive tradition of fundamental discoveries and getting these discoveries into the community to improve people’s health, prevent disease and manage our environment. Our ongoing work identifying genetic factors in areas such as understanding gut health, mental health and biodiversity of our rivers and oceans will bring real benefits to society. The SAGC will amplify the impact of these studies and, more generally, South Australia’s research strengths in genomics and bioinformatics to help more people live healthier, better lives.”
Dr Kirby Siemering – Australia Genome Research Facility, CEO
“Genomics has become a key enabling technology that is now underpinning advances across all of the human health, agricultural, and environmental science domains. AGRF is delighted to build on our long-standing involvement in genomics in South Australia through partnership in SAGC. We believe that broad access to a collaborative genomics centre consolidating AGRF’s extensive experience in operating accredited high-throughput genomics infrastructure and national linkages with the research excellence and innovation capacity of the partners will drive national and international collaboration delivering world-class research outcomes for South Australia.”
Professor Anton Middelberg – The University of Adelaide, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Research
“SAGC will provide increased open-access service to the research community, maximising access to genomic technology through outreach, education and training. The aim is to create new engagement opportunities between researchers and facilitate further integration between genomics user groups and bioinformatics experts.
All researchers, irrespective of the research area, will have equitable access to this facility. I believe that the consolidation of bioinformatics support in SAGC is a strong, mutually-beneficial initiative with considerable value to the University of Adelaide and South Australia more widely.
Professor Steve Wesselingh – SAHMRI, Executive Director
“The SAGC represents a significant commitment to SAHMRI’s core philosophy of collaboration with benefits that span all of SA’s research community and indeed the community generally. Sharing these facilities and expertise means we all save on machinery and other equipment costs which can be significant. Importantly the centre will also directly and indirectly create jobs. Initially more than 10 staff will be based at the SAGC and we expect that to expand as our state strengthens its reputation and capacity in these fields.”
Professor Markus Herderich – The Australian Wine Research Institute, Group Manager – Research
“The SAGC is an essential step towards capitalising on collaborative opportunities in complex biology. It will help build synergies between agricultural and biomedical research that are unique to Adelaide. I believe the SAGC will be transformative to multiple current agricultural and biotechnology projects as it enables the development of integrated ‘multi-omic’ analysis with state-of-the-art instrumentation and bioinformatics tools. For example, combining microbial metagenomics and metabolomics will be key to improving animal and plant stress tolerance, quality and productivity, and equally important for understanding human disease and nutrition.”