1960 - 1970
In the late 1960's, genetic services in Victoria were first established in the genetic clinic of the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne and provided clinical diagnosis and risk counselling for couples that had a child with a serious birth defect or genetic condition.
1970 - 1980
Reproductive genetics evolved with the advent of ultrasound and options for prenatal diagnosis. Genetic counselling services were set up in obstetrics hospitals. Carrier testing to identify those at risk of having children affected by certain disorders was offered.
1980 - 1990
The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Cytogenetic service came under the umbrella of The Victorian Clinical Genetics Services (VCGS) in 1986 and by 1988 was well established with funding from the Department of Human Services. The laboratory research activities in genetics were consolidated into the Murdoch Institute for Research into Birth Defects (Murdoch Institute) with seed funding from the Murdoch family under the patronage of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. The VCGS expanded its clinical services to other metropolitan hospitals and regional centres.
1990 - 2000
The advent of gene testing in the 1990's created ever-growing possibilities for predictive testing for adult onset disorders in neurogenetics and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Genetic services became increasingly relevant to the adult community and had broader utilisation in reproductive genetics. Diagnostic laboratory services evolved with time.
The Newborn Screening laboratory changed management from the Health Department of Victoria to VCGS in 1990.
In the Cytogenetics Laboratory, Molecular Cytogenetics began with Fluorescent in-situ hybridisation (FISH) and Fragile X syndrome DNA testing in 1992. Oncology services for childhood solid tumours began the same year and extended to leukaemia in 1995. Prenatal testing services began in 1998.
The Maternal Serum Screening laboratory was established offering second trimester screening to all women in Victoria in 1996.
Molecular genetic diagnostic services evolved from the research activities of Murdoch Institute as did more recently, mitochondrial enzymology diagnosis, which provides testing for Australasia.
2000 - 2009
The Murdoch Institute merged with The Children's Hospital Research Institute to become the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI). The Clinical activities of the VCGS started to operate under the name of Genetic Health Services Victoria (Genetic Health) in 2001 while the diagnostic laboratories are now referred to as VCGS Pathology.
The RCH Metabolic Screening laboratory came under the management of the VCGS and the Cytogenetic laboratories of The Royal Women's Hospital and the VCGS amalgamated under the management of the VCGS.
Maternal serum first trimester screening was made available.
Cutting edge techniques were introduced. MLPA technique was introduced in the Molecular Genetics laboratory in 2002 with novel applications being applied.
In the Cytogenetics laboratory, microarray development began through collaboration with Affymetrix in 2004, leading to replacing conventional karyotyping of developmental delay cases and all testing of spontaneous miscarriage in 2009.
2010 and beyond
Today, 75% of Victoria's pregnant women are screened through the Maternal Serum Screening program. Victoria and Tasmania's newborns are tested for ~25 conditions. The Cytogenetics laboratory is now the largest in Australia.
The pace and change of genetic testing and gene therapies, together with a strong birth rate in this state means that this decade will see unprecedented growth in the demand and need for ever-greater access to genetic testing, counselling and scientific research. The VCGS, to maintain its international standing and remain at the fore front of world renowned genetics services, will invest in greater numbers of staff and cutting edge laboratory equipment to meet this need.