ANU: Health leader to advance Indigenous genomics

There is no population that suffers the long-term consequences of early life challenges more than our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our program of research will combine genomics, precision medicine and public health to address this

Internationally-acclaimed Aboriginal researcher and clinician Dr Alex Brown will take up a new appointment as Professor of Indigenous Genomics as part of a new strategic partnership between Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute and The Australian National University (ANU).

Telethon Kids Institute Board Chair and ANU Chancellor, the Hon Julie Bishop, said the appointment reflected a joint commitment of both organisations to working with community to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Professor Brown is widely regarded as one of Australia’s top Aboriginal clinician researchers. His work has already had a significant impact in improving health care and services, and also in the way we conduct research in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure the greatest relevance and results,” Ms Bishop said.

“The field of genomics unlocks the information in our DNA to enable personalised, more targeted approaches to preventions and treatments. Professor Brown’s work in this area will help to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are very much part of this exciting new frontier in medicine.”

Professor Brown has long associations with both organisations, having served on the governing boards of the ANU National Centre for Indigenous Genomics and Telethon Kids Institute, as well as being the scientific lead on the Institute’s 1000 Families Initiative.

“This role is a great opportunity for me to leverage the strengths of two highly regarded organisations to bring new capacity and focus to this program of work,” he said.

“There is no population that suffers the long-term consequences of early life challenges more than our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our program of research will combine genomics, precision medicine and public health to address this.”

Professor Brown’s priorities will be to:

Support community awareness and genomic literacy to underpin informed participation and empowerment in research
Establish ethical, culturally and socially appropriate ways of conducting genomic research in partnership with communities
Document and understand the diversity of Indigenous peoples and the drivers of disease in different communities
Deepen understanding of biology and enhance knowledge of complex diseases among Indigenous Australians to directly improve health outcomes
Translate scientific understandings of genomic diversity into enhanced and targeted delivery of health care within Indigenous health services
Develop the capacity of the Indigenous genomics workforce
Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Russell Gruen, welcomed the partnership with Telethon Kids Institute and the opportunities Professor Brown’s appointment brings for serving society, and particularly Indigenous people, through transformational research.

“Professor Brown is leading population genomics to a new level, and will now align his own deep expertise with that of the Telethon Kids Institute and the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at ANU to advance human health, and ensure people everywhere can benefit from such great science,” he said.

Telethon Kids Executive Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM, said Professor Brown’s appointment reinforces the Institute’s ambition to be the global leader in Indigenous child health research.

“Professor Brown is driven by integrity, respect and deep compassion. We are very excited to have his wisdom, expertise and leadership guiding our commitment to see real change for WA Aboriginal children and families, to make sure we can grow up the next generation of Aboriginal children to become leaders.”

The ANU and Telethon Kids strategic partnership will drive a common agenda for research excellence and internationally significant scientific outcomes, as well as facilitate the training of higher degree by research students and the development of early-mid career researchers.

Professor Brown and his team will take up their new positions in 2022 and be based at the Institute’s Adelaide office.

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