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Associate Professor Tony Roscioli receives Federal Government funding

A research project that will examine the feasibility of genomic testing has received funding from the Australian federal Government Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF).

The two-year project, PreGen, will be led by Associate Professor Tony Roscioli, who is an expert in genomics at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), UNSW and New South Wales Health Pathology.

The funding received will allow PreGen to perform genomic tests in families seen at 10 of Australia’s largest maternity centres. This will assess the benefits made available from antenatal genomic testing.

“We do not currently have easily accessible accredited antenatal genomic testing in Australia. Pregnancy abnormalities identified on ultrasound are therefore not usually investigated further with genomic testing to try to find the cause,” Associate Professor Roscioli said.

The grant will help to improve knowledge about the conditions causing malformations, improve available testing and promote international collaborations to understand the genetic conditions that may occur in babies.

Prenatal genomic testing allows the cause of some abnormalities to be identified. This information helps families consider available options and could allow clinicians to better manage a baby’s health after the birth.

“There is huge demand for this technology from families and doctors,” Associate Professor Roscioli said.

The project will create training positions to build the workforce required to perform and analyse the results quickly. PreGen will also evaluate the psychological support families may require when undergoing genomic testing.

“The priorities will be to set up antenatal genomic testing safely around Australia and to expand knowledge about genetic conditions in babies. We will evaluate the counselling that is required to support families appropriately,” he said.