Our Strategic Programs


At Garvan, our overarching goal is to achieve impact. We seek to see our research discoveries make a real difference to thousands of Australians and people around the world.

Our Strategic Programs are our flagship strategies for impact. The Programs bring together multiple Labs across Garvan, along with partners in other organisations. They focus on an area of science where Garvan has distinctive strengths and critical mass. The Programs are actively focused on taking research discoveries all the way through to clinical impact, to improve health and change lives.


Program Leads:

A/Prof Jodie Ingles

A/Prof Owen Siggs


Accelerating genomic diagnosis of disease

Rare genetic diseases collectively affect 2 million Australians and hundreds of millions worldwide. Rare disease can affect any of the body’s systems and often have a profound and devastating impact on health and quality of life.

The Rare Genetic Diseases Program has a vision to tackle the twin challenges of faster diagnosis and better treatment options for rare disease, to make a genuine difference to the lives of patients and their families and communities.

Program Leads:

Prof Joseph Powell

A/Prof Robert Weatheritt


Unpacking complex disease, cell by cell

Cancers, autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions, respiratory conditions, most cardiovascular conditions, and more: these are all ‘complex diseases’, with many contributing genetic and non-genetic factors. Together, complex diseases are by far the biggest contributor to disease burden worldwide – yet they are immensely challenging to study at the level of our genes and our cells.

The vision of the Complex Diseases Program is to understand how our genetic risk for complex diseases acts at the level of our individual cells – and to use this information to develop next-generation therapies that improve the health of millions living with complex disease.

Program Leads:

A/Prof Elissa Deenick

Prof Tri Phan


Powering up the immune system’s cells

Immune-related diseases – including Infectious disease, allergy and autoimmunity – pose a significant global health burden. The COVID pandemic has killed millions worldwide; allergies affect 1 in 5 Australians; and autoimmune diseases are chronic health problems that can cause disability and lost income not just for patients but also their families.

The vision of the Immune Diseases Program is to transform the treatment of diseases affecting the immune system through precision immunology. We will reframe understanding of immune disorders, with the goal of developing new and effective precision treatment and prevention approaches.

Program Leads:

A/Prof Alex Swarbrick

Prof Paul Timpson


Targeting the dynamic cellular ecosystem in cancer

A cancer does not grow in isolation. Instead, it interacts closely with its ‘microenvironment’ to build a dynamic ecosystem of tumour, immune and other cells. We know that this ecosystem has the power to ‘make or break’ a cancer, by sending signals that support tumour growth and spread, or halt it in its tracks.

The Cancer Ecosystems Program has a vision transform understanding of where tumours live and how they grow, in space and time. We’ll use this knowledge to develop, with partner organisations, new therapies  and diagnostics for major cancers. Our particular focus is on breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma, which together account for a large proportion of cancer diagnoses and deaths globally.

Program co-Leads:

A/Prof Christine Chaffer

A/Prof Marina Pajic


Precision medicine for cancer

There are currently few, if any, treatment options for cancers that are resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. For patients with these cancers, lifespan and quality of life are dramatically decreased.

The vision of the Cancer Precision Medicine Program is to drive the bench-to-bedside translation of new precision medicine therapies. Anchored in Garvan’s outstanding discovery research in treatment-resistant cancer, we will identify the next wave of cancer drug targets – and we’ll facilitate and enable rapid clinical translation of cutting-edge research to provide patients with access to new treatment strategies for difficult to treat cancers.

Program co-Leads:

Prof Jacqueline Center

Prof Mike Rogers


Overcoming the burden of skeletal disease

Skeletal disease is a global healthcare issue.  Remarkably, 1 in 20 Australians lives with osteoporosis, leading to a million fragility fractures every 5 years. Skeletal disease is also a major problem in patients with cancer – particularly advanced breast and prostate cancer. Diseases of bone, and the fractures that accompany them, sharply decrease both lifespan and quality of life.

The vision of the Skeletal Diseases Program is to fundamentally alter the landscape of bone health in Australia and worldwide. We will focus on overcoming the personal, societal and economic burden of major skeletal diseases, particularly osteoporosis and cancer-associated bone disease. We will take a multi-pronged approach – encompassing cellular, genomic, implementation and clinical sciences – to develop personalised approaches to clinical management of bone disease.