Submissions to open soon

 

Who can submit a gene?

Australian clinicians and diagnostic labs (including research diagnostic groups) discovering genes or variants of unknown significance (VUS/GUS) in patients, who want to connect with functional genomics researchers who can investigate the functions of those genes and/or the functional attributes of the gene variants.

 

Which genes/variants should be submitted?

The Network welcomes the submission of functional genomics studies in the following categories associated with either a rare disease or inherited cancer.

  1. Novel gene: A gene not previously associated with disease, but is supported by genetic evidence (mutations in the same gene in unrelated patients with a similar phenotype) and functional data is being rapidly sought prior to publication.
  2. Candidate gene: A gene that has not previously been associated with disease in a single patient/family/isolated population such that additional functional data is necessary to support disease-causation.
  3. Novel variant in a known disease gene: A novel variant causing a phenotype that appears to be different to previously reported genotype-phenotype reports.
  4. Known disease genes that are of therapeutic interest. Therapeutic opportunities will include projects that propose to develop a model asset for drug screening or develop a model to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment.

The Network and Objectives

The Network will mobilise the entire Australian biomedical community of clinicians and scientists to communicate, integrate their resources, and work collaboratively to gain insights into the clinical and functional attributes of rare disease genes and cancer genes. Through the database capturing the resources and expertise existing in the Australian research community, connections will be fostered between teams of matching research interest to deliver a better understanding of the genetic and cellular disease mechanisms, developing prevention guidelines and diagnostic tests, and investigations of potential therapies. The goal of the Australian Functional Genomics Network is to improve the lives of patients and their families through the coordination of functional genomics research in Australia.

The specific objectives of the Network are to:

  • provide functional validation of human genetic variants that cause disease;
  • develop insights into an evidence-based rationale for treatment (e.g. identification of candidate drug targets) via knowledge of disease gene function and molecular pathway;
  • complement clinical disease gene discoveries by functional genomics investigation that lead to significant and impact research output, such as publications, health policy and practice of clinical management; and
  • establish sustainable collaborations between clinical teams and model system research teams to conduct outstanding research that will attract further competitive funding support.

Connection Process

The clinical team that discovered a novel gene or clinical significant variant that requires functional evaluation will submit a Connection application with all the required information. Applications are assessed by a Clinical Review Panel, followed by a search of the Network Registry to identify the best-match model systems research team. While funding for connection projects is currently not available, the Scientific Review Panel will invite the connected teams to submit an ‘Acceptance’ application expressing their interest to undertake function work using their own resources. On a positive response from the teams, the Panel will recommend establishing the connection with an agreement on the condition of the collaboration, which will be considered for acceptance by the combined teams. When Network Catalyst funding is available, the combined teams will be established, with the Network, and agree to the funding contract incorporating the scope of work and the conditions of the award.

Partner Participation

The Network has no formal requirement for prior partnership. Applications are welcomed from pre-existing or newly formed teams of clinicians and model system investigators who share an interest in pursuing disease gene discovery or validating variants of unknown significance. The Network also welcomes proposals from other organizations such as rare disease foundations who are interested in funding Catalyst Grants in targeted areas. [contact us at: functional.genomics@mcri.edu.au]

Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes a declined application?

The most usual reason for the Review Panel to decline an application is the lack of adequate genetic data to support causality. Applications will also be declined if it is deemed that the proposing study is on a relatively common variant in the population. If a variant phenotype in a known gene is proposed, an appropriate justification that this is a distinct phenotype is likely to be underpinned by a different pathogenic mechanism (e.g. gain-of-function versus previously known hypomorphic mutations) may be provided.

Under what circumstances might an application be put "on hold"?

A key objective of the Network is to expedite collaborations on model-based studies of rare disease genes. Although applications from clinical teams are encouraged, we recognise that there could be situations where there is insufficient detailed analysis of genetic data. Such applications will be put “on hold” whereupon additional input from molecular geneticist studies can help build the case for further consideration.

What happens when different clinical groups propose the same gene?

The Panel will call the different groups to consider a multi-team collaboration. Applicants may recognize that a collaborative project is more likely to lead to significant research output, given the fierce competition for publishing research findings in journals of high repute.