Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A philanthropic gift of almost $1million to The University of Western Australia to purchase state-of-the-art genome sequencing and genetic analysis equipment will provide benefits for the whole community, according to Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Robson.

The gift, from Perth businessman, Mr Charles Morgan, will provide two high-capacity genome sequencers, a device for performing other genetic and expression analyses, as well as associated robotic equipment for the Lotterywest State Biomedical Facility: Genomics (LSBFG).

The equipment will provide new capacity not yet available in WA.  It will be available to scientists from any university or other research organisation, as well as to medical and scientific staff across the WA Department of Health.

The facility is based at Royal Perth Hospital and supported by UWA through its School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, a strategic partnership between the University and PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA.  UWA will provide an additional $225,000 for staff to support research with the new equipment.

Mr Morgan and The University of Western Australia believe that it is important to ensure that this new equipment is available to, and used by, as wide a range of researchers as possible.

Professor Robson said Mr Morgan's gift would enable access to genetic information that would help in research and disease diagnosis at a level not previously achievable.

"This sequencing equipment will allow us to effectively sequence an entire genome - human, animal or plant - for relatively low costs and quicker than ever before," Professor Robson said.

The scientist in charge of the LSBFG, Associate Professor Richard Allcock, said the facility's aim was to enable internationally competitive research projects across Western Australia, as well as to develop diagnostic tests.

"This is cutting-edge technology and we're thrilled to be able to provide access to it in WA.  We aim to develop affordable, cost-effective tests for patients that will make a real difference to how we understand, diagnose and treat diseases," Associate Professor Allcock said.

"The tests will be useful in the diagnosis of a wide range of genetic diseases including neuromuscular disorders and cancers.

"However, the equipment is certainly not limited to medicine.  It can be used in any field that considers DNA and gene expression.  For example, in agriculture it has applications in plant and animal-breeding; and in restoration ecology it can be used in understanding the genetic diversity of native species," Associate Professor Allcock said.

Media references

Professor Alan Robson  (+61 8)  6488 2809
Associate Professor Richard Allcock (Lead LSBFG Scientist)  (+61 8)  9224 1175
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8)  6488 5563  /  (+61 4) 32 637 716


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