Precision health strategy gets boost from Chinese gene sequencer

12 Jun 2019

Chinese genome sequencing company, BGI Genomics (BGI), and Australian health-data expert, Pryzm Health (Pryzm) have announced a collaboration designed to bring genome-related precision health services to Australia.

Precision medicine aims to customise treatments by using genetic profiling and other environmental factors to tailor – or personalise – medical interventions.

BGI and Pryzm hope that by combining patients’ genomes with high quality data on individual patient characteristics, health services can predict, diagnose and treat patients with far greater accuracy and success than currently possible.

The two companies also anticipate that precision medicine will make access to health services more equitable.

Australia-based Pryzm is currently developing secure ways to gather and structure vast amounts of patient-specific data – a process called phenomics.

According to Dr. Tudor Groza, Co-founder, Pryzm, the inability to access such data is one of the principal challenges to using genomic data in day-to-day medicine.

‘Our company’s core capabilities of acquiring and classifying clinical features and symptoms will meet a critical need for accelerating routine use of genomic data in healthcare settings,’ he says.

Pryzm’s partner, Shenzehn-based BGI, is one of the world’s leading genome sequencing companies. Based in southern China, it is expert at gathering population-scale genome data.

Dr. Ning Li, Chief Development officer of BGI, says Pryzm’s advanced capabilities in phenomics makes the company an ideal match with BGI’s complementary skills in sequencing.

‘We are thrilled to join forces … and to explore the combined power of genomics and phenomics with Pryzm to improve patient outcomes and enhance public health,’ says Li.

Genetic research is a growing priority in Australia. In the 2018 budget, the Australian government committed A$500 million over 10 years to a Genomics Health Futures Mission.

‘Australia has a world-class health system, and significant capability in genomics research and in the application of genomics data in clinical practice,’ says Li.

The Australian Governments Health Futures Mission (GHFM) is the centrepiece of the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan. It currently provides a A$156 million project grants stream from 2019 to 2028, with individual grants worth up to A$5 million.

Pryzm Health is a digital health start-up focused on guiding personal and clinical health decisions by accelerating diagnosis of rare and inherited diseases. Its goal is to improve access to genomic data research institutes and clinicians.

BGI Genomics was founded in 1999 in Shenzehn, China. It is a publicly listed commercial genomics company that provides a wide range of sequencing services and genetic tests, and the company currently works with approximately 3000 medical institutions worldwide. BGI opened its Australian and Asia-Pacific headquarters in Queensland in 2016 and since then the company is increasing collaboration in the Australian market.