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$8 million awarded to predict genetic disease risk

$8 million awarded to predict genetic disease risk: Landmark genetic research could allow doctors to accurately predict whether a patient is at risk of developing common diseases, decades before any symptoms would become evident.

Snow Medical Research Foundation has awarded University of Queensland researchers $8 million to dramatically advance the use of genomics to prevent chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

2024 Snow Medical Research Foundation Fellow, UQ’s Associate Professor Loic Yengo.

Associate Professor Loic Yengo from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said the study would analyse DNA sequences from millions of participants, with a unique focus on increasing participation of people with diverse ancestries.

“The Snow Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity to do this work at the necessary scale, and this will include a 10-fold increase in the representation of people with non-European ancestries in genetic health data around the world,” Dr Yengo said.

Snow Medical Research Foundation chair Tom Snow congratulated Dr Yengo, the first Snow Fellow from UQ.

“Loic Yengo is a serious talent who we are proud to support,” Mr Snow said.

“He’s going to accelerate personalised medicine based on an individual’s genome.

“His research focuses on people from diverse backgrounds to ensure life-saving medical advances are accessible to everyone – a key issue for Snow Medical.

“The Snow Fellowship funding and its resulting discoveries will reinforce the important role of both UQ and Australia in cutting edge genomics data science, attract new talent and allow breakthroughs that will make health care more cost-effective and equitable.”

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AC thanked Snow Medical for their transformative support of Dr Yengo’s research, and for their investment in biomedical research across Australia.

“Breakthroughs in medical research take time, and too often, short term funding arrangements get in the way of high-end research outcomes,” Professor Terry said.

“We are grateful to Snow Medical and the generous Snow family for making a difference for people living with chronic disease by providing certainty for this vital work, which will ultimately benefit genetic research around the world.”

Dr Yengo said preventing people from developing a disease was always the better option, and more cost effective for the health system.

“I’m very appreciative of this unique support from the Snow family, which will ultimately improve health equity by enhancing our ability to accurately predict disease risk regardless of a person’s background,” he said.

Dr Yengo joins Professor Lara Malins from the Australian National University as 2024 Snow Fellows.

The eight-year Snow Fellowship, funding at up to $1 million per year, provides outstanding biomedical researchers the independence to focus on building ambitious multidisciplinary research programs and teams capable of changing the face of healthcare in Australia and globally.

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