Australia’s largest cancer genomics initiative, Precision Oncology Screening Platform Enabling Clinical Trials (PrOSPeCT), was launched at UNSW’s Michael Crouch Innovation Centre today.

Emma McBride, the federal Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, and Ryan Park, the NSW Minister for Health, officially launched PrOSPeCT. The event was attended by dignitaries from UNSW, Omico industry partners and government representatives.

“We are proud to support PrOSPeCT, which will give 23,000 Australians with incurable or advanced cancers access to genomic screening, at no cost to them – and then link them to the latest local trials, including advanced medicines,” Ms McBride said.

Omico, a non-profit company, will partner with UNSW's new Centre for Molecular Oncology (CMO) to deliver the national precision oncology program. PrOSPeCT will give 23,000 Australians free access to world-class genomic profiling, clinical assessment of their results and matching to advanced precision treatments available locally, including early-stage clinical trials.

Professor David Thomas will lead UNSW’s CMO. Professor Thomas is an oncologist and founder and CEO of Omico, the Head of the Genomic Cancer Medicine Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and a Conjoint Professor at UNSW Medicine & Health. Combined with the Zero Childhood Cancer program, led by Children's Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children's Hospital, this further establishes UNSW as the hub of the national precision oncology system.

“Based on science, precision oncology harnesses genomics to apply highly specific and effective precision treatments to take on the most challenging cancers. It’s the front line of advanced treatments and through PrOSPeCT we can offer precision oncology nationally to all who may benefit,” said Prof. Thomas.

professor david thomas talks to media at the launch

The front line of advanced treatments: Professor David Thomas at the launch. Photo: Omico

“PrOSPeCT is set not only to transform access to advanced treatments for those who desperately need them, it will also unify an extensive national cancer network while building our capabilities, infrastructure and skills in cancer research and care. It will place Australia firmly on the global stage in this rapidly evolving area, setting benchmarks to bring genomics to large numbers of patients.”

Funded by UNSW, the CMO will provide the research team that will spearhead the PrOSPeCT initiative. Omico will house up to seven staff onsite at UNSW’s Kensington campus and the CMO will support more than 50 researchers to work across the full range of precision oncology research, from genetic risk to clinical trials of novel therapies to health system reform.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said this announcement further advanced UNSW’s vision to improve access to world-class health care for all Australians.

“Omico and the Centre for Molecular Oncology address this vision with respect to cancer, the leading cause of death in our community. In collaboration with the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, this will position UNSW as the centre of precision oncology in Australia,” Prof. Brungs said. 

“I welcome Omico to its new home at UNSW and through this partnership we will revolutionise the way health care is delivered for cancer patients nationally.” 

Senior Vice-Dean, Research & Operations at UNSW Medicine & Health, Professor Sean Emery, said the partnership with Omico and launch of PrOSPeCT would further UNSW’s vision to impact health outcomes across Australia, and create unique opportunities for staff and students.

“High-quality research drives improved health outcomes. Harnessing the capabilities attached to the Centre for Molecular Oncology and Omico is a huge enabler of the UNSW vision,” Prof. Emery said.

“PrOSPeCT, combined with the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, makes UNSW the national hub for molecular oncology. This creates enormous breadth and scale for our staff and students to deliver improved health outcomes.”

PrOSPeCT is financed by public and private funds totalling $185 million, including grant funding of $61.2 million from the Australian federal government, $25 million from NSW Health, and a commercial collaboration between Omico, the National Computational Infrastructure at Australian National University, the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia and Roche Australia.

The initiative will lead to an estimated 650 high-skilled local jobs, $525 million investment in local clinical trials and $135 million in savings to the health system through access to innovative therapies via clinical trials.

It builds on the success of Omico’s Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) study that has recruited over 6000 advanced cancer patients in the past five years. MoST was supported by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre.

Read more about Omico here.