Centre for Law and Genetics


A Tasmanian Biorepository for Genomic Research into Disease (Tas-Bio-GRiD)

University of Tasmania Co-CIs: Assoc Prof Kathryn Burdon (Menzies), Dr Jac Charlesworth (Menzies), Assoc Prof Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (Humanities)
Funding Source: University of Tasmania, Strategic Research Funding Grant
Commencement Date: 2015
Project Status: Current


Research Background

Tasmania has long been recognised as a unique population in which to identify genes for heritable diseases. The relatively stable population makes the ascertainment of families with diseases of interest practical, and the well-documented genealogy of the state allows linking of families together on a scale unprecedented in other Australian states. This type of research has also been undertaken in Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Assoc Prof Dickinson and colleagues conduct research into the genetics of familial cancer (e.g. prostate and haematological cancers) multiple sclerosis, and genetic eye disease; our familial approach to complex disease genetic research capitalises on the inherent advantages of performing genetic research in the Tasmanian population.

It is now widely recognised that familial genetic studies will be a highly rewarding focus in our search for new therapeutic targets, particularly in the era of the new technologies available for genomic research. The revolution in genome sequencing (next generation sequencing), now allows us to examine the entire genetic code of an individual. Next generation sequencing is particularly advantageous for familial genetic studies where affected individuals from families can be sequenced to discover the rare genetic mutations contributing to disease. However, due to the large amount of rare genetic variation detected, determining which of these have disease relevance and which are simply markers of the population of origin has become a challenge to all researchers. The sole use of international publicly available 'historical' datasets, even those of predominantly British ancestry, although still valuable, is no longer an efficient way to explore rare variation on a population specific level.

The Menzies and the CLG, have been undertaking research investigating best practise approaches to the ethical and legal issues surrounding genetic research in Tasmania. We have undertaken consultation with the Tasmanian community on the issues surrounding biorepositories in genetic research (The biobank project Tasmania – a community consultation) and have established principles surrounding governance and informed consent processes. Whist a population biobank (eg. UK Biobank) is not envisaged here, the Tas-Bio-GRiD biorepository and Tasmanian Reference Genome Database will provide a centralised hub of vital resources on which to base other studies of disease in our population and add considerable value to our genomics and CLG's ethics and legal program.

About the Project

The aim of this project is to generate a "genomics hub," which would provide an opportunity for Tasmania to lead the way on issues that are currently the substance of international debate.

The genomics hub proposed here will facilitate genetic research in Tasmania increasing opportunities for our researchers as well as external collaborations and external use of the facility more generally.

Creation of governance and management protocol In Progress

Research Output

Creation of the genomics hub which is available for approved research use.

Genetic research high degree learning opportunities in genetics, ethics, and law.