This blog post has been reproduced verbatim from the original announcement on the Telethon Kids Institute website, posted on Wednesday, 21 September 2022

The project, led by Professor Alex Brown, Head of Indigenous Genomics at Telethon Kids Institute, The Australian National University and South Australian Medical and Research Institute, has received funding under the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Indigenous Australians are severely disadvantaged by a lack of access to the emerging field of “personalised medicine” – where a patient’s individual genetics and epigenetics are used to estimate their disease risk and to target effective treatment.

The study of epigenetics focuses on the processes that control when particular genes are turned on or off, and how environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle and stress can affect gene expression.

Biomarkers can be developed from epigenetic profiles when combined with other patient information.

Professor Brown said the lack of epigenetic data for Indigenous Australians means researchers know less about severe disease in our First Nations populations than in other groups.

Type 2 Diabetes drives a raft of life-limiting complications in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and infectious diseases.

“In this study, we will build a first-of-its-kind framework for developing epigenetic biomarkers for Indigenous Australians. All of this will be made possible by our already established South Australian Aboriginal Type 2 Diabetes cohort, known as the PROPHECY Cohort.”

“We will use this established, large cohort of Indigenous Australians to document epigenetic profiles that can be used to develop accurate biomarkers,” Professor Brown said. ”These biomarkers can then be used to target early prevention and management of diabetes and its complications.”

The project will be carried out in partnership with the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, The University of Sydney and The University of Western Australia.

It has been funded under the Medical Research Future Fund’s Genomics Health Futures Mission.

About ANU

The Australian National University (ANU) is unlike any other university in Australia. Founded in 1946, in a spirit of post-war optimism, our role was to help realise Australia’s potential as the world recovered from a global crisis. That vision, to support the development of national unity and identity, improve our understanding of ourselves and our neighbours, and provide our nation with research capacity amongst the best in the world, and education in areas vital for our future, has been our mission ever since.


SAHMRI is South Australia’s independent, not-for-profit health and medical research institute. We believe in a healthier future for all Australians. We listen to the needs of our communities to deliver research that changes the way healthcare is delivered. Through research excellence, innovation and strategic partnerships, we turn discoveries in health and medical research into impact for the community to improve their lives and the health of all Australians. SAHMRI and our partners continue to invest in a healthier future for all, including construction of the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research adjacent to our headquarters. This new building will house Australia’s first proton therapy unit, which is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.