Transforming healthcare through precision medicine – new centre opens

A new medical research centre aimed at improving the lives of people with incurable diseases has opened in Perth. Developed jointly by the Perron Institute and Murdoch University, it aims to target revolutionary treatments for serious health conditions such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, blood disorders and other life-threatening diseases.

The Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics (CMMIT) was officially opened at Murdoch University’s South Street campus on 22 February by our Patron His Excellency the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia.

It brings together world-renowned scientists focused on developing treatments that target the unique molecular and genetic makeup of individuals. This personalised approach is designed to ensure the right treatment at the right time.

Perron Institute Director, Professor Steve Wilton has been appointed Director of CMMIT. The research team he jointly leads with Professor Sue Fletcher was responsible for developing Exondys 51, a genetic drug that overcomes the most common type of gene mutation that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

In 2016 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this drug developed at the Perron Institute in association with The University of Western Australia. Although not yet approved for use in Australia, in the United States Exondys 51 has revolutionised the treatment of this devastating muscle-wasting disease to the extent that young people who would otherwise be in wheelchairs are still able to walk into their late teens and beyond.

Professors Wilton and Fletcher and their team now located at Murdoch, have developed a panel of drugs like Exondys 51 to address other mutations that cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy with the aim of being able to treat most forms of this disease. Two of these drugs in advanced Phase 3 trials overseas are expected to receive FDA approval over the coming months, opening the possibility of trials in Australia within the next year.

Professor Wilton said the challenge for the future is to develop therapies to treat individuals with a variety of different diseases.

“Precision medicine has the potential to transform healthcare on a scale equivalent to the way antibiotics transformed the fight against infectious diseases.

“The Centre’s goal is to extend the benefits of precision medicine by bringing together scientists and clinicians from diverse backgrounds to focus on potential applications for a number of serious diseases.”

Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen said the CMMIT showed an enduring commitment to excellence in health and medical research and would build on Murdoch and the Perron Institute’s strengths in tackling rare and complex diseases.

“The Centre provides an opportunity for us to emerge as genuine leaders in the field of precision medicine,” Professor Leinonen said.

Professor Alan Robson AO CitWA, Chair of the Perron Institute Board, said the Centre would enable Murdoch University and the Perron Institute to collaborate more effectively.

“Exciting partnerships with industry partners in Australia and beyond will open up as the Centre brings a new range of medical techniques to the world”. Read more here.


Pictured: Professor Steve Wilton, Billy Ellsworth and Professor Sue Fletcher

Read the West online article about how it all began with the Rottnest Island quokka and Prof Byron Kakulas, who travelled to the island where they all met just before the opening.