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$2.9 Million boost for Australia's first saliva-based glaucoma genetic test

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Article

Flinders University Ophthalmologists have devised a novel glaucoma polygenic risk score (PRS) that identifies those at high risk of losing their sight and prioritizes their treatment.

Professor Jamie Craig of Flinders University. (Photo courtesy Flinders University)

Professor Jamie Craig of Flinders University. (Photo courtesy Flinders University)

A new saliva-based genetic test for glaucoma received a $2.9 million funding injection from the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Genomics Health Futures to roll out the test across Australia.

Ophthalmologists at Flinders University and The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have devised a novel glaucoma polygenic risk score (PRS) that identifies those at high risk of losing their sight and prioritizes their treatment.

According to a statement from Flinders University, until now, there was no way of determining who will develop vision loss and how to better manage those at risk of developing glaucoma. Instead, they are commonly monitored every 6 months, which presents a major burden to patients and healthcare systems.

“The test will enable a paradigm shift in glaucoma management,” said Professor Jamie Craig, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University. “This will be Australia’s first validation study of a clinic-ready PRS for glaucoma, with collaboration across academia, primary/specialist care, consumer and industry. It is an exciting new opportunity to give patients an early diagnosis of glaucoma which can then lead to vision-saving treatment. Early diagnosis and timely intervention is key, and our strategy will focus on reducing the time it takes for a high-risk patient to reach specialist care and intervention. We plan to develop and deliver a scalable approach for the genetic test, ready to be adopted in both community and specialist care settings across urban and regional locations.”

According to the team, the saliva-based test will change the current one-size-fits-all approach to one of a more personalized approach where high-risk patients are managed with specialist input, while those at a low- and intermediate-risk level can be managed safely and less frequently in optometric primary care.

The project involves other researchers from Flinders University, University of Tasmania, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, University of Western Australia, University of Sydney, University of Adelaide, Macquarie University and University of New South Wales.

Professor Jamie Craig has been awarded more than $30 million in funding and has made discoveries concerning the commonest causes of blindness: glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. Professor Craig is also an NHMRC Senior Practitioner Fellow and is currently the Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology.

References:

  1. Genetic screening for a clearer future. Press Release. Released November 23, 2023. Accessed November 23, 2023. https://news.flinders.edu.au/blog/2023/11/23/genetic-screening-paves-the-way-for-clearer-future/
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