Griffith to partner with world’s largest genomic firm

The world’s largest genomic organisation, China-based BGI, has signed a collaboration with Griffith University researchers, which could lead to the development of new genetic tests and approaches to treatments.

Under agreements BGI signed today with Griffith University and other leading Queensland research teams at James Cook University and the CSIRO, it will collaborate with local researchers on genomic projects relating to human medicine and health, sports health, marine science and biodiversity, agriculture and aquaculture.

The new collaborations come as BGI officially opens its new Australian and Asia Pacific headquarters at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute at Herston, which will initially employ 10 people.

BGI President and co-found Professor Jian Wang said Queensland’s existing life science institutions, industries and strong network made it an obvious choice for BGI’s research and development, and commercialisation centre for the Asia Pacific region.

Genomics technology

“BGI has some very lofty ambitions to use genomics technology to improve human life – increasing the average life span by five years, increasing global food production by 10 per cent and understanding the mechanisms of 50% of diseases,” he said.

“BGI’s global precision medicine initiative is also seeking cures for cancer, birth defects, cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, and infectious diseases.

“To achieve all of this, we need to collaborate with the world’s best to better understand the genomics of plants, animals and humans.

“BGI’s decision to come to Queensland demonstrates our confidence in the state as a major centre for life sciences, including cancer research, biomedical science, genomics and biotechnology, as well as agricultural science and development.”

Professor Wang said BGI was supported in its decision and plans to locate in Queensland and collaborate with local partners by Trade and Investment Queensland and Think Queensland.

“BGI has already established some very strong links with Queensland research institutes on genomics research related to biodiversity, crop improvement, environment and diseases.  Today’s agreements deepen these relationships further and we look forward to working together to improve our future and life.”

James Cook University Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin said the university was excited to be partnering with BGI.

“We look forward to working with BGI on new and existing areas of scientific research, including tropical health and medicine, environmental science, and aquaculture,” he said.

Griffith University’s Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ned Pankhurst said that partnerships with global industry partners such as BGI were essential to translate research outcomes.

Drug discovery

“Griffith is keen to work with BGI in a number of areas. Griffith is well known for its capabilities in sports science, immunology, cancer research, drug discovery and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome research. Collaboration with BGI will complement our capabilities in genome sequencing and could lead to development of new genetic tests and approaches to treatments.”

CSIRO Agriculture and Food Research Director Dr Graham Bonnett said CSIRO was keen to pursue the possibility of a new cropping option for farmers with millet.

“CSIRO has deep expertise in farming systems and crop improvement, and works successfully with a range of partners.  With BGI we are keen to collaborate on a joint research program that leads to a profitable production system that includes high performing millet cultivars and hence benefits to Australian farmers.”

BGI is one of the world’s largest genomic organisations.  It was founded in 1999, and today has established 47 laboratories worldwide (including joint labs) and employs more than 5,000 people.

Apart from contributing to international projects such as the Human Genome Project and the 1000 Genomes Project, BGI was the first in the world to sequence genome of key plants (such as rice, sorghum and millet), animals (such as the giant panda, silkworm and polar bear) and bacteria and viruses.