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25 June 2018

Media release

New partnership with Cambridge University to target disease prediction and treatment

A new partnership with Cambridge University will significantly expand the capabilities of one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, to harness big data to target approaches in disease prediction and personalised medicine.

The Baker Institute’s Head of Systems Genomics, Associate Professor Mike Inouye has accepted a joint appointment with Cambridge University to establish the Cambridge Baker Strategic Partnership for Systems Genomics.

The initiative will apply big data science to population datasets of one million people whose health has been tracked over many years in the United Kingdom.

The initiative provides an opportunity to meet the next generation of challenges in cardiometabolic disease screening and prevention. This includes the identification and characterisation of drug targets through massive scale analysis of molecular systems; and development of transformational methods, such as deep learning, that promise to drive this relatively new and growing area of research.

The collaboration will involve close alliance with key UK groups including the British Heart Foundation’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, the Cambridge Substantive Site of Health Data Research UK, industrial partners, and others.

“The combination of big data and genomic technology is driving medical research in new and dynamic directions and it is exciting to be at the forefront of this scientific revolution,” Associate Professor Inouye said. “We want to do science that saves lives and makes people go 'Wow!' but we could never do it alone. Joining together in collaborative teams and international partnerships, as we are here, will bring us closer to predictive disease modelling and precision targeting of therapies.”

It is hoped this new area of exploration will help predict diabetes complications, better recognise early cardiovascular disease and stratify disease in areas such as heart failure to enable cardiologists to tailor individual treatment.

According to Professor John Danesh, Head of the department at Cambridge University that will host the Cambridge node of this strategic partnership, “Mike Inouye is an outstanding example of a multi-talented researcher who is equipped to seize the new opportunities of medical science without disciplinary boundaries that Cambridge is helping to lead through the creation and harvesting of large multi-dimensional cohorts of patients and populations”.

Associate Professor Inouye is a computational biologist and an international leader in the application of data science approaches to biology, particularly disease aetiology and clinical risk prediction.

His group is skilled in harnessing big data through machine learning in order to provide biological and clinical insights that advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, including metabolic disease such as cardiovascular disease.

The group’s recent work included the development of a genomic risk score for coronary heart disease. They showed that they could potentially distinguish in early life who is at high risk of cardiovascular disease through the development of a score based on more than 49,000 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs — single letters in the human genome sequence that commonly vary from person to person. With the predictive power of the genomic risk score, it may be possible to better target interventions early in life that reduce risk of future heart disease.

For further information or to organise interviews please contact:

Tracey Ellis
03 8532 1514
M: 0433 781 972

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