New genomic database launched in Australia to help boost Indigenous healthcare, in collaboration with Oxford Nanopore Technologies

New genomics resources to improve diversity and to increase representation of Indigenous people in reference data set

Improving genomic databases

A team led by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research is set to establish a new genomic database for Indigenous Australians. The project will be jointly run with the Australian National University’s National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG) and in collaboration with Oxford Nanopore Technologies and the National Computational Infrastructure.

Dr Ira Deveson, Head of Genomic Technologies and member of the Genomics Pillar and Centre for Population Genomics at the Garvan Institute, leads the project, which will use nanopore sequencing and Australia’s most powerful supercomputer to identify which genes might contribute to illness in Indigenous populations.

“Through collaboration and partnership with Indigenous communities and researchers, this project will develop new reference databases and resources to better identify harmful variants among Australia’s First Nations peoples […].

“[…] many of the variants that may contribute to disease in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations occur over long or repetitive sections of DNA which are hard to detect using standard ‘short-read’ sequencing technologies,” he adds.

“Our project will use sequencing technologies from Oxford Nanopore, that can read any length of DNA fragments, and which we’ve shown can reliably pick up on the variations on those long or repetitive DNA sections.”

Community engagement

This study will build on already established partnerships with Indigenous communities to create new insights beyond what is possible with existing genomic technologies. The team will work with eight communities from Northern and Central Australia, before expanding to other communities across the country. The study aims to develop the capabilities to perform genomics research with full transparency or even direct participation of Indigenous community members and local health professionals.

The full Garvan Institute of Medical Research announcement is available here.