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04 Dec 2020

Pioneering genomics platform to drive personalised treatment for COVID-19

An innovative genomics platform has been launched to understand the varied types of disease progression of patients with COVID-19, which will help to identify what treatment is best suited to individual patients.

The ID Predict platform - led by University of Melbourne researchers at the Doherty Institute in collaboration with computational biologists at Melbourne School of Engineering and the Water & Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), and international genomics company Illumina - will combine cutting-edge human and microbial genomics with multi-disciplinary technology advances to create a platform that is essential to the COVID-19 response, and rapidly deployable for future infectious disease outbreaks.

The platform is one of two flagship genomic innovation projects of the recently unveiled an Illumina-UoM Genomics Hub, supported by a investment from the Victorian Government, University of Melbourne and Illumina. The hub will lift local genomics research and clinical trials to a global scale, driving the implementation of genomics into routine clinical care.

ID Predict Principal Investigator, University of Melbourne Professor Sammy Bedoui, a laboratory head at the Doherty Institute, said the platform was a significant development in the management of COVID-19. He will be working with Professor Karin Verspoor from Melbourne School of Engineering, Professor Tony Papenfuss from WEHI and their teams.

“We’ve seen the power of public health genomics to inform on community transmission and infection spread with COVID-19, however our understanding of why people respond to the virus so differently is still largely unknown,” Professor Bedoui said.

The ID Predict platform will examine aspects such as immune cell composition and function, virus parameters, microbiome diversity and metabolic activities, as well as co-morbidities to create deep biological and immunological profiling of patients. Innovative computational approaches will then be applied to these data sets to develop decision-making tools capable of predicting disease outcomes in individual patients and tailoring treatment options.

“Rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, this platform will allow physicians to personalise treatments to their patients. This will aid in ensuring that each patient is rapidly subjected to the best treatment, tailored to their own unique genetic make up,” continued Professor Bedoui.

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said the innovative application of genomics will ensure that we will better understand who and why severe disease occurs in COVID19 ultimately leading to better treatments.

“With the support of the Illumina-UoM Genomics Hub and its investors, this platform draws upon Victoria’s world-class medical research expertise to create an invaluable tool to effectively understand and treat COVID-19 today, while ensuring we’re better prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks tomorrow,” Professor Lewin said.