Like any far-reaching and ambitious medical research initiative, the Garvan-Weizmann partnership relies heavily on support and investment from generous and forward-thinking individuals and organisations.
Vital initial investment from the NSW Government, Mr John Roth and Ms Jillian Segal AM, Mr and Mrs Laurie and Di Sutton and Mr Johnny Kahlbetzer has funded the construction of the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics.
Collaborative research projects
We are delighted to introduce two inaugural research projects – all existing collaborations between Garvan and Weizmann researchers – that mark just the beginning of the research program within the Garvan-Weizmann partnership.
Towards personalised medicine for pre-diabetes
Researchers from Garvan and the Weizmann Institute are working together to understand how different types of pre-diabetes can be distinguished in patients — with the aim of improving treatment and stemming the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes.
“Previously, it hasn’t been possible to identify the different forms of pre-diabetes, or to tailor treatments to specific patients — but our study proposes to change that,” says Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet.
In the first instance, the study will recruit 150 volunteers. Researchers will measure a host of parameters including body fat, liver fat, blood parameters, physical activity, sleep patterns, diet and —importantly — the individual’s genome sequence and the genome sequence of gut microbes, which gives a readout of each individual’s ‘microbiome’.
Participants will then receive one of three randomised treatments. The study will measure treatment success by comparing patterns of glucose levels in the blood before and after the treatments.
Researchers will next develop algorithms that predict a pre-diabetic individual’s response to treatment, and trial their predictive power in a separate smaller cohort of 45 individuals with pre-diabetes.
The study will leverage Garvan’s considerable expertise in the measurement of metabolic readouts in people at its Clinical Research Facility; and the Weizmann Institute’s remarkable track record in uncovering how our ‘microbiome’ affects our metabolic response.
“Ultimately, we hope to make it possible to readily identify an individual’s pre-diabetes subtype in order to guide an optimal treatment to prevent diabetes,” says Dr Samocha-Bonet.
Towards personalised medicine in melanoma: who will respond to immunotherapy?
he Garvan-Weizmann partnership will play an important role in the melanoma research of Professor Yardena Samuels (Weizmann Institute). Professor Samuels is working to understand how melanomas vary between individuals, with the aim of predicting which cancers will respond to immunotherapy.
Immunotherapies — which ‘turn on’ the immune system and empower it to attack tumours — are currently at the forefront of revolutionary cancer treatment. Immunotherapy based on the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune system), has achieved remarkable results in some melanoma patients, yet most patients still fail to respond to T cell-mediated immunotherapy, and little is understood about why.
Professor Samuels and her colleagues have already developed a remarkable tumour bank containing samples from melanoma patients who have been treated with immunotherapy. Built specifically for the study of melanoma immunogenomics, the tumour bank makes it possible to explore the processes by which tumors evolve to actively escape the defensive mechanisms of the immune system, and to identify ways to reactivate tumour-specific T cells in melanoma.
Professor Samuels, alongside Dr Andrew Stone from Garvan, will perform whole genome sequencing and RNA sequencing on 80 melanoma samples (half of which responded to immunotherapy, and half which did not) from the tumour bank. This will allow them to identify the mutations and changes in gene expression that may be linked to the disease.
Ultimately, the researchers aim to provide tools for predicting how melanomas will respond to treatment, making it possible to tailor immunotherapies to individual patients and tumours.