Our genomics revolution

cliffAs featured in the Autumn 2016 edition of Compass (PDF 478.7KB)  

Genomics is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing areas of medicine, and NSW Health Pathology is ramping up to be a recognisable force on the national and international stage.

Dr Cliff Meldrum, our first Director of Genomics, is leading the charge to create a statewide genomics service.

It will bring together the expertise and resources that exist across our networks into one coordinated service, dedicated to providing state-of-the-art diagnostics and care for NSW patients.

“NSW Health Pathology is home to some of the brightest minds in this area,” Dr Meldrum explained.

“Our pathologists and scientists are developing faster, more efficient tests for an ever expanding range of genes linked to hereditary conditions like cancer, heart disease and developmental delay. We have 130 staff working across at least 10 different laboratories.  Last year alone our teams processed nearly 90,000 genomic-related tests and the demand is growing every day. While the work our genomics experts do is second to none, many of our teams have operated in relative isolation, focusing on their particular specialty area,” Dr Meldrum explained.

“That needs to change if we want to be a leader in the genomics revolution. Pooling our expertise into a coordinated statewide service means we can provide a broader range of clinically relevant testing. We’ll be in a better position to rapidly embrace and translate new knowledge and technologies. We can also reduce unnecessary duplication and create a stronger, more recognisable force in the marketplace. Achieving all of this will benefit patients and the broader health system while also giving our staff a host of exciting new opportunities and career pathways,” he explained.

The new statewide model will initially see our genomic expertise develop around three primary service specialties: rare disorders, cancer and infectious diseases.

The service will also link with genomics experts from the Children’s Hospital Westmead, which provides testing for children and their families. 

The Children’s Hospital Westmead also hosts the NSW newborn screening program and the state’s biochemical genetics program, which will increasingly rely on new and emerging genomic technologies.

Dr Meldrum is the first to admit there’s a lot of work ahead to move to a truly integrated statewide service, but he’s excited about the challenge. 

“We have a three-year strategic plan to guide our efforts, and we’re establishing a dedicated management unit to drive it forward,” he explained. 

“We’ll be visiting our genomics labs to get input from staff on the best ways to enhance collaboration and develop the necessary support systems we’ll need moving forward. Maintaining our strong clinical relationships is essential, so we’ll be working hard to ensure our customers and partners understand the benefits that will arise from having a statewide service, for them and their patients.”

According to Dr Meldrum, having a world-class genomics service is one of the many value-adds NSW Health Pathology brings to the broader health system.

“We have the expertise needed to take genomic medicine in NSW to the next level,” he said.

“We’re in an ideal position to enhance the clinical connections and integration with other parts of the health system.  By taking a statewide approach, we’re also better positioned to lead and support research that delivers more personalised, predictive and preventative care for patients.”

For more information contact Dr Cliff Meldrum or ph. 02 4920 4077