December 2016 | Issue 27
Connecting the different pieces of the ‘Omics’ puzzle

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By Sufian Suderman, Senior Executive, Research Administration & Support Services

The concept of personalised medicine broke into global mainstream consciousness when President of the United States of America Barack Obama announced a massive US$215 million research effort called the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015.

Precision medicine eschews the reactionary one-size-fits-all approach towards treatment by evaluating differences in each person's genes, environments and lifestyles to better pinpoint the cause of an ailment. Drawing on a more detailed picture of a patient's biological makeup, personalised medicine offers more accurate indicators for targeted therapeutic treatments.

At the heart of precision medicine lie the many fields collectively referred to as ‘Omics’, which explore the complex systems underpinning human biology, such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics.

These fields emerged off the back of the Human Genome Project, which was completed at the turn of the century. While there have been many significant breakthroughs and discoveries in the different ‘Omics’ fields, such as stratification to determine the most effective cancer treatment. Yet there still remains a group of patients for whom this does not lead to better results. To effectively help them, a multi-‘omics’ approach is required.

Recognising that the future of personalised medicine and drug discovery will depend on close integration of different ‘Omics’ technologies, LKCMedicine brought together a wide array of ‘Omics’ experts for Singapore's first ever Singapore Trans2Omics Workshop on 24 October 2016. Curated by LKCMedicine Nanyang Assistant Professor Guan Xue Li, the workshop drew a large and diverse audience from various research and healthcare organisations and academic institutions, including other schools from NTU, NHG, A*STAR and NUS, Alexandra Health System and SingHealth, as well as industry players such as MSD, WATERS, SCIEX and Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

Highlighting the need for an integrated ‘Omics’ workshop, Separation Science and Metabolomics Director Associate Professor Rob Trengove from Murdoch University said, “It's really important that we have large multidisciplinary teams that allow for a continuum between basic research through translational work, but also for different ‘Omics’ to interact with each other as much as possible. The multidisciplinary teams associated with each of the different ‘Omics’ need to work together as an even bigger multidisciplinary team.”

Participants were introduced via a wide range of presentations to the technological developments in the various ‘Omics’ fields and their applications in myriad disease areas, including mental health, cancer and infectious diseases by local and international scientists and industry experts.

During the presentations, the latest ‘Omics’ technologies and research were discussed, including the development of a system for genetic hybridisation of E. coli that helps to better understand antibiotic resistance and disease mechanisms as well as novel tools for systems biology research on lipid metabolism and functions in the area of infectious diseases.

Reaffirming LKCMedicine's dedication and commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to healthcare and research, Asst Prof Guan said, “As the new kid on the block, LKCMedicine will benefit greatly from events such as the Singapore Trans2Omics Workshop as we are able to bring in experts and learn from their journey in ‘Omics’ research. As an academic institution, it is also important for LKCMedicine to organise events that are open to all to educate next generation scientists and clinicians in the developments and prospects of trans-omics.”

The Singapore Trans2Omics Workshop is the first of a planned series and serves as a starting point to seed ‘trans-omics’ locally and internationally. Future sessions are in the pipeline, aiming to bring people and ideas together to advance translational health research and applications.