Illumina partners with the Garvan on major new genome project

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Global genomics company Illumina is partnering with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s TenK10K project on a joint $27 million investment to map 50 million human cells from 10,000 people.

The project aims to transform the treatment of complex diseases. It will identify unique genomic fingerprints of autoimmune diseases, heart diseases and cancer, building on the early success of a clinical trial for Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease affects more than 80,000 Australians. As with many autoimmune diseases, predicting which treatments will work best for which patients is currently impossible. The OneK1K clinical trial across ten Sydney hospitals shows that a genetic fingerprint project led by the Garvan Institute can help match individual patients with the most effective treatment.

Illumina supports the project with supplies, equipment and specialist research support.

“This work has the potential to enable a significant step forward in personalised medicine. In 2022, in a paper in Science, we announced that we had analysed the genomic profile of more than one million cells from 1,000 people to identify markers of autoimmune disease,” said Professor Joseph Powell, leader of the OneK1K and now TenK10K project at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. “We were able to do this using single-cell sequencing, a new technology that allows us to detect subtle changes in individual cells,” he says.

“That led to a proof-of-principle clinical trial at 10 Sydney hospitals to see if we can improve the treatment of Crohn’s disease. The early results suggest we can predict a patient’s response to a therapy based on their genetic profile. Through single-cell sequencing, which analyses individual cells rather than an average of many cells, we can see fingerprints that we’ve never been able to distinguish before.”

“Now, with the help of Illumina, TenK10K will build on this work to generate single-cell data on around 50 million cells from 10,000 individuals to further improve the accuracy of predicting disease risk and treatment response. This research will help identify the subtle genomic differences in everyone’s cells, which will help us speed up diagnosis and treatment for many diseases. We are excited by translational opportunities that come from combining this globally leading biotechnology resource with advanced machine learning methods,” said Professor Powell.

NSW Minister for Medical Research David Harris welcomed the partnership.

“This partnership will help advance the field of genomics and personalised medicine, delivering benefits to patients across NSW,” said Mr Harris.

“The future of this work will allow for next-generation sequencing of patients’ genomic data to ensure they receive more personalised treatment for chronic and autoimmune conditions.

“A few years ago, this project would have been impossible,” said Illumina’s Simon Giuliano, commercial lead for Oceania. “Now we have the technology to rapidly and cheaply detect the difference in the genomics of individual cells using next-generation sequencing. And that opens up the potential of a new era of personalised health, where the variation in every human cell flags the right treatment for an individual’s disease, avoiding the trial and error in the past.”