The inaugural 2021 InnovationAus Awards for Excellence winners were recently announced on Wednesday 1 December.

These awards are designed to celebrate the best of Australian innovation and shine a light on the contribution they make to build the future of the nation.

The teams and organisations highlighted by the Awards are all working to improve the lives of Australians through innovation in health, energy and manufacturing.

The Acute Care Genomics project, which is co-led by Professor Zornitza Stark and Associate Professor Sebastian Lunke, was announced as the winner in two categories: Research Translation and MedTech & BioTechnology.

Acute Care Genomics project: Finding answers for critically ill babies and children

Rare genetic conditions are the leading cause of disability and death in Australian children and have a profound impact on affected families and the broader community. It used to take many years, hospital visits and tests to find the right diagnosis, with most families never receiving an answer.

Four years ago, the Acute Care Genomics project set out an ambitious goal: to speed up genomic testing so that answers could be found for critically ill babies and children with rare disease in time to help their clinical care.

Through the combined power of cutting-edge genomic technologies and a dedicated multi-disciplinary research team across the country, comprising over 100 clinicians and scientists, this goal was achieved.   

The Acute Care Genomics project has provided a genomic test report in less than 5 days to over 350 Australian families. 

These rapid genomic test results empower clinicians and families to make time-critical decisions about treatment with confidence. Many of the children who received a diagnosis have accessed life-saving treatments, spent fewer days in hospital and avoided invasive and painful procedures.

VCGS is one of only two laboratories in the world capable of delivering such rapid testing at scale.

The Acute Care Genomics project was established by the national government-funded research network, the Australian Genomics Health Alliance. The project is led by investigators from VCGS - the pioneering genetic services arm of MCRI - the largest child health research institute in Australia and one of the world’s leaders in paediatric research.

Congratulations to everyone involved

Congratulations to Professor Zornitza Stark and Associate Professor Sebastian Lunke, co-leads of the Acute Care Genomics project, as well as the clinical, lab, admin staff and collaborators involved. These awards recognise their commitment to innovation and collaboration to advance genomic testing, providing the needed care for critically ill babies and children at a large scale.

“The InnovationAus Awards for Excellence [highlighted] some of the most stunning stories of translating innovation into real-world impact, and we’re thrilled to be shining a light on the prolific innovators behind these successes,” Digital Health CRC chief innovation officer Dr Stefan Harrer said.

Congratulations too to GERMii Australia, CSIRO & Coviu, SleepTite, Advanced Mobility Analytics, AKQA and UNSW SMaRT Centre on being category finalists.