New Weizmann-Garvan centre established to study cellular genomics

Date: Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Weizmann Institute of Science and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney are establishing a joint centre for research in cellular genomics. The Centre, which will be known as the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics, will be housed in the Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney.

The centre will be Australia’s only multidisciplinary facility for cellular genomics: the study of the molecular genetic states of thousands of individual cells. The mission of the Centre will be to help researchers develop a detailed understanding of how the genomes and gene expression programs of individual cells in the brain, the immune system, and other organs change over the course of a lifetime, how cancers, autoimmune diseases, dementia and other conditions develop, and how to design new strategies for prevention and treatment.

The partners are highly complementary: While the Weizmann Institute has expertise in single-cell genomics and in other key emerging technologies, Garvan is a leader in the analysis of cancer genomes and their behaviour and is at the forefront of genome sequencing in Australia. Together, researchers from the two institutions hope to create synergistic research platforms to advance the field.

Plans for the Centre were announced in April by New South Wales Premier Mike Baird on an official visit to Israel in which he visited the Weizmann Institute. In his announcement, Mr. Baird heralded the partnership, saying it would create a bridge between two innovative and world-leading research bodies.

“By building the first facility of this kind in our part of the world, we can continue NSW’s leadership in scientific and medical research,” Mr. Baird said.

The Centre’s establishment will be supported by $5 million in NSW Government funding, with matching funds provided by Garvan, with the assistance of Weizmann Australia.

Prof. Christopher Goodnow, Garvan’s Deputy Director, says: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Weizmann Institute of Science and to be establishing this visionary centre here in NSW. “We are entering an era of cellular genomics, in which we can investigate the individual molecular genetic states of thousands of single blood, brain or cancer cells—revealing important changes in each cell’s genetic code, its genetic output, and the secondary code that organizes the genome (the epigenome).

“That level of resolution, coupled with the ability to probe large populations of cells, can lead to new insights into the mechanisms of disease that, before single-cell approaches came of age, simply couldn’t be unlocked,” says Prof. Michal Neeman, Vice President of the Weizmann Institute.

The partnership will also enable Garvan and the Weizmann Institute to collaborate on science education and biomedical visualisation. In NSW as well as at the Weizmann Institute, this will accelerate development of targeted programs to help science teachers teach genomics to middle and high school students and will open the door to these advances to the public.