ANU medical researcher wins national award

06/09/05

ANU immunologist Professor Chris Goodnow has been awarded the Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research for his research in molecular genetics.

Professor Goodnow, the Director of the Australian Phenomics Facility and Head of the Medical Genome Centre at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, said the award recognised a forward-looking medical research program underway at ANU based on a 'roadmap' of the human genome.

"I'm thrilled to have received this prestigious award from the Australian Government - it is not only satisfying for me personally, but it also is added confirmation of a bold strategy being undertaken at ANU to discover the mechanisms of immune regulation," Professor Goodnow said.

"The next decade of medical science will be driven by investigation of the genome sequence, and research at the John Curtin School of Medical Research is already focusing on this area."

Professor Goodnow said that the Federal Government-funded Australian Phenomics Facility will be a driving force in this genome research, with its program for screening hundreds of thousands of gene sequences and making them accessible to medical researchers around the world.

It has already led to a number of breakthroughs at ANU in one of the largest health problems in the community - dysfunction of the immune system. Autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and multiple sclerosis.

"The research program is a clear example of how ANU leads Australian and international research by looking over the horizon and starting new research fields in anticipation of future of developments - in this case anticipating the sequence of the human genome.

"This current work lays out a genetic roadmap for developing ways to prevent or cure diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, which collectively affect one in 20 Australians.

"It looks into genes and gene mechanisms based solely on their importance to immune regulation, without constraints of prior knowledge. It harnesses a novel process of studying gene function, which mirrors the spontaneous genetic variation that occurs naturally during population growth by introducing random changes in the mouse genome sequence.

"This immediately opens up research into the human gene, the testing its function, examining variants of the gene that may explain autoimmune disease, and working towards discovering drugs that might increase or decrease the activity of the new process."

Professor Goodnow's genome research was seeded by funding from ANU in 1997 and catalysed by a $1 million dollar capital grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. In 2001, the Commonwealth government granted $11.5 million to establish the Australian Phenomics Facility, which operates in partnership with The Australian National University, Monash University, The Garvan Institute, and the University of Queensland.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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