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In an Australian first, Queensland researchers have released Genomic Partnerships – a set of guidelines to help genomic health researchers work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in a way that respects cultural protocols.
The genomics research guidelines were developed by researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland, with funding from Queensland Health’s $25 million health genomics investment program: Queensland Genomics.
Genomics can be used to predict disease risk, diagnose disease more accurately, and guide treatment. Using genomics in healthcare is expected to grow exponentially in coming years to a personalised medicine approach, where patients are treated based on their specific genomic information rather than the uniform approach currently used.
Executive Director of Queensland Genomics David Bunker said the guidelines were developed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would share in the future benefits of genomic medicine.
“Advances in healthcare like genomic medicine have the potential to hugely benefit health consumers globally, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at risk of being left out of these health benefits,” he said.
“One reason is that health researchers are not engaging with these communities due to a lack of awareness of how to conduct genomics research in such settings.
“If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not engaged in this healthcare revolution, the burden of disease may grow for these communities, further widening the gap.”
Greg Pratt, Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said the guidelines will help give these communities a voice.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People haven’t been involved in conversations about what precision medicine or genomics looks like for them.
“These communities are certainly interested in being involved in genomics research, but they would like it conducted in a way that partners with them.
“We developed Genomic Partnerships to help researchers undertake genomic research in collaboration with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.
“We anticipate the guidelines will enhance engagement with these communities and encourage the kinds of discussions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to engage in,” he said.
Genomic Partnerships was informed by a series of consultations and engagement with stakeholders and community members across Queensland.
Genomic Partnerships is available on the QIMR Berghofer website.