Thursday, 24 September 2015

SPHPM joins the genomic revolution

SPHPM welcomes Paul Lacaze, our new Head of the Public Health Genomics Program with ASPREE. Paul has come on board at Monash to help revolutionise and integrate genomics into the ASPREE Biobank and clinical registries.

With a background in both academic and commercial science, he brings unique knowledge in genetic technology and its application to medical research.

Having worked in the genomics industry for five years after receiving a PhD in genetics from the University of Edinburgh, he hopes that the Public Health Genomics Program will broaden the scope of ASPREE and other studies by the addition of genomic and molecular data.

When Paul began working in the genomics industry, the technology around genomics accelerated rapidly and full-scale DNA sequencing technology first developed in the US then spread to the Australian market.

“It was really interesting to be a part of that genomic technology movement, which is still ongoing,” Lacaze said.

As part of his work for Millennium Science, he was responsible for introducing these new genomic technologies into the Australian research market, providing high-level scientific support to genomics labs around the country.

He is excited that the School is moving into these new areas bringing together genomics, public health and whole genome sequencing.

“I’d always been interested scientifically in the ASPREE study and how [genomic technology] might one day add value to the existing vast epidemiological information. Genomics is now ready to be applied on large cohorts at the population level, meaning studies like ASPREE with large biobanks can benefit from the addition of genetic data as well as clinical and lifestyle data - and that’s where I come in,” Lacaze said.

His role will primarily focus on the genomic aspects of the ASPREE study and how the genomic resources of ASPREE can be developed to aid the prediction of illness onset in older people. This is crucial work because the better methods we have of predicting who will develop particular illness the better we can target preventive efforts.

“In addition to the potential for developing better predictive models for disease prevention, one other key aspect of ASPREE is the opportunity to find people who might be expected to develop a disease based on their genes but don’t, and discover whether they have some resistance or resilience to a disease and find out why,” Lacaze said.

“This is an alternative to traditional disease-focused approaches, but I think it holds great promise”.

With Paul at the helm leading the rapidly developing area of genomics, the School will become part of the genomics revolution and it is hoped to positively impact personalised medicine and other areas.

Paul has had a long association with the School, after studying genetics at Melbourne University, he worked on various research projects with the School before moving to the UK to complete his Masters and PhD in genetics and gene control of the immune response.

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