ANPC analyses first COVID-19 samples to unravel individual risk

Dr Samantha Lodge, preparing COVID19 samples at the ANPC

As the world prepares for second waves of infections, Murdoch University’s COVID-19 Critical Research Program today begins processing samples of the virus.

“For me, this is an important day,” said Professor Jeremy Nicholson, ANPC Director and Pro Vice Chancellor of Murdoch’s Health Futures Institute. “It is the day that the Australian National Phenome Centre comes of age and is formally engaged in a globally and immediately relevant problem.”

The goal of the research program is to better understand COVID-19 and the complex biological interactions that give rise to the differential severity of the disease in virus exposed patients. 

The ANPC team, led by Professor Nicholson, is studying the detailed biochemistry of COVID-19 that will give insights into why some patients become severely ill and others do not. This will allow health care experts to predict outcomes for individual patients.
This is the work this world-leading facility was built to do – deliver real diagnostic and prognostic solutions in an accelerated time-frame to a global problem.
Professor Jeremy Nicholson
The sample processing also harnesses Murdoch’s Centre for Computational and Systems Medicine (CCSM). Led by WA Premier’s Fellow in Phenomics, Professor Elaine Holmes, the CCSM is the data science engine of the critical research program, using the technology of the ANPC to generate deep phenotypic profiles of biological samples. 

“We’re about to undertake broad and deep metabolic analysis of blood plasma and urine samples, using a range of state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry and data modelling approaches,” explained Professor Holmes.
The profiles we develop from this will allow us to understand the pathways to infection and the biological consequences, crucial knowledge for the development of effective treatments and vaccines.
Professor Elaine Holmes
The ANPC is closely connected to other major research groups around the world that have aligned analytical capabilities, providing opportunities for diagnostic data sharing and research validation. 

“Murdoch University is dedicated to making a difference in our world with research that makes a real-life impact,” said Professor David Morrison, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation.

“The ANPC’s work in addressing the world’s most pressing health problem is further proof of that.”

About the COVID-19 Critical Research Program

Researchers from Murdoch University’s Australian National Phenome Centre, the South Metropolitan Health Service COVID-19 Response Team and the broader WA healthcare community are undertaking a major research and diagnostics project.

The project will see the ANPC working hand-in-hand with Professor Merrilee Needham of Murdoch University,  the University of Notre Dame and Director of Research at Fiona Stanley Hospital, Professor Toby Richards of the University of Western Australia, who are bringing together the top doctors and researchers from WA through the Western Australian Health Translation Network for the COVID-19 Response Team.  

By analysing the molecular, physical and biochemical characteristics of blood and urine, researchers at the ANPC aim to predict variation in severity of the disease and understand differential responses to therapeutic interventions. 

Posted on:

22 May 2020


Science, Research, Health

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