Research breakthroughs and advances

Since 1963, Garvan’s scientists have pioneered major research developments in the diseases affecting society the most. Scroll down to discover some of the key advances we've made over the last 58 years.




Sydney researchers develop rapid genomics strategy to trace coronavirus

A team of leading Sydney researchers pioneered the use of a fast genomic sequencing technology to help determine the source of hard-to-trace coronavirus cases.

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Treatment linked to slowed cognitive decline

A six-year study of older Australians with type 2 diabetes uncovered a link between metformin use, slower cognitive decline and lower dementia rates

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Psoriasis drug for osteosarcoma

A treatment for psoriasis could be repurposed to treat this rare but aggressive form of cancer. “There's been no real advance in treatments for four decades – we have uncovered a new target that can be modulated with an existing therapy."

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Found: a new form of DNA in our cells

We discovered a new form of DNA called the ‘i-motif’ to be located inside human cells.

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MRI screens pick up early stage cancers

Our research, along with international efforts, showed that whole-body MRI screening can detect primary tumours throughout the body, at a curable stage, in people with high genetic risk of cancer.

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Genomic diagnosis changes lives

Using whole genome sequencing, we diagnosed a previously mysterious immune disorder in a critically ill 5-year-old boy. Armed with this knowledge, clinicians changed Alan's treatment – radically improving his health and his outlook.

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A key to creating blood stem cells in the laboratory

We uncovered a mechanism essential for forming hematopoietic stem cells – a key step toward generating them in the laboratory as treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancers and other disorders of the blood and immune system.

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Nanotechnology for pancreatic cancer

With colleagues in the UK, we developed an imaging method to monitor areas deep within pancreatic tumours and revealed a new way to improve drug delivery.

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Unmasking the secrets of pancreatic cancer

We sequenced the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and identified new mutations that lead to pancreatic cancer.

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Breakthrough study links Type 1 diabetes and Sjögren's syndrome

With collaborators, we discovered a new group of immune cells that for the first time directly link two autoimmune diseases, Type 1 diabetes and Sjögren's syndrome.

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Gene silencing common in cancers

A group of Garvan scientists discover that extensive gene silencing is common in cancer, with up to 3% of the genome affected by epigenetic changes to DNA in cancer cells.

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Our brains build bones

We showed that the brain, through the hormone NPY, helps control the building of our skeletons.


Belly fat link to diabetes

We uncovered the role of abdominal fat in determining risk of type 2 diabetes.

1999 to 2005

Growing nerve cells

We developed methods to culture adult nerve stem cells capable of generating new brain cells, giving hope that some neurodegenerative diseases could be reversed.


Cyclins drive the progression of breast cancer

We made one of the decade’s most significant advances in breast cancer when we discovered the role of proteins called cyclins.

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Genes contribute to bone health

We helped discover the first genetic factors that impact bone density of the spine and the proximal femur in adults.

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Lifesaving insulin infusions

We developed an infusion technique that treats ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening complication associated with diabetes.


Measuring growth hormone

We developed an Australian-first ‘radioimmunoassay’ technique to measure growth hormone in people.

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