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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Kuala Lumpur, 17 March 2015—Patients with one of a number of devastating genetic blood disorders, such as thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia, will benefit significantly in the coming years from a new international project announced today at the annual Human Genome Organisation meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The Global Globin 2020 Challenge (GG2020), an initiative of the Human Variome Project—an international scientific NGO working with UNESCO and WHO to build medical genetics and genomics capacity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries—will apply recent developments in human genomics involving the systematic collection and sharing of genetic variation data to fighting these blood disorders, referred to technically as haemolytic anaemias.

In particular, the Challenge will build an evidence base for the better management of delivery of local treatment, care and eventually cure for these diseases by ensuring that there is sufficient local capacity to deliver services. It is believed that the Challenge will put in place the skills and expertise in genomic medicine needed to effectively tackle other health issues in these countries as well.
The Challenge is being led by two leading geneticists, Professor Zilfalil bin Alwi from Malaysia and Professor Raj Ramesar from South Africa. Both are members of the Human Variome Project Board and can see the benefits this project will bring to their patients and others in South East Asia, Africa and the rest of the world.

Human Variome Project International (HVPI) Chairman, Chris Arnold, who chaired the HUGO session introducing the project, thanked the GG2020 challenge co–chairs and fellow HVPI directors, Professor Zilfalil Bin Alwi, from Universitie Sains Malaysia and Professor Raj Ramesar from the University of Cape Town South Africa for their leadership and willingness to coordinate this major global initiative. Mr Arnold stated “The haemolytic anaemias collectively, are cause for significant morbidity and mortality, especially in parts of the world where health systems are often less well developed. Children are often most severely affected. Despite much being known for a long time about the genetics and biology of the haemolytic anaemias and this knowledge being used successfully in some countries to systematically reduce burden of disease, low- and middle-income countries have remained practically untouched by this knowledge and innovations.”

In launching the Challenge, Professor bin Alwi said, “The Malaysian Node of Human Variome Project is honoured to be given the privilege to co-chair this Global Globin Initiative. Hemoglobinopathy, in particular Thalassaemia, is a common disease in Malaysia where about 5% of the population are carriers of the disease".

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Paris, France, 21 May—The diverse range of human genomics research projects being undertaken by African institutions and researchers involved in the Human Hereditary and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Consortium was highlighted yesterday during the 5th Biennial Meeting of the Human Variome Project Consortium. The lead researchers from seven African nations involved in the H3Africa Consortium presented their ongoing work at a special session of the Human Variome Project meeting that was opened by Mdme Robertine Raonimahary, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Africa Department Office for Cooperation and partnerships between Member States.

“It is no secret that Africa’s history has been marked by a development narrative in which the benefits from science, technology and innovation have been enjoyed by few,” said Raonimahary. “Today it is changing and Africa’s leaders view science, technology and innovation as critical to human development and global competitiveness and increasingly are investing more substantially in research, quality science education and upgrade of research and teaching infrastructure. Over the last few years the biggest revolution is occurring in genomic research. Nowadays Africans have the highest levels of genetic diversity within and among populations and the study of this diversity can contribute immensely to this area of science. First of all to reconstruct human demographic and evolutionary history, to study the African Diaspora and African ancestry globally, to study the genetic basis of susceptibility to communicable and non-communicable diseases and finally to understand differences in drug response.”

The projects being presented ran the gamut of human genomics research from identifying the genetic variants involved in the development of diseases primarily affecting individuals of African descent to investigating the underlying genomic components of susceptibility to infectious diseases such as trypanosomiasis. Researchers also reported on the development of a continent spanning bioinformatics capability and a network of state-of-the-art biorepositories.

Professor Raj Ramesar from the University of Cape Town, who chaired the session and sits on the H3Africa Steering Committee, said, “Twenty-seven African nations are currently involved in the H3Africa Consortium covering twenty research project n diseases of local relevance with funding in the order of US$74 million provided by the US National Institutes of Health and the UK Wellcome Trust. The session during the Human Variome Project meeting was directed at bringing the progress and results of these important projects to the attention of African governments and highlighting the current research impetus in their countries towards translating the outcomes of these projects for local utility.”

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Melbourne, 10 October - Efforts to fully document the full scale of human genetic variation and its role in illness and disease were boosted last week with the launch of the Human Variome Project South East Asian Node.

The Human Variome Project is an international initiative, coordinated from Melbourne, to ensure that discoveries about the human genome and how it affects our health are routinely shared in a free and open manner.. The Human Variome Project South East Asian Node will assist the national efforts of Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand to share information on genetic variations in South East Asian populations between member nations and the rest of the world.

"This is a tremendous step forward for these countries," said Professor Richard Cotton from the University of Melbourne and Scientific Director of the Human Variome Project, who was present at the launch ceremony in Melaka, Malaysia on the third of October. "These countries obviously recognise that genetic and genomic healthcare is an important part of a well developed health system and they are serious about providing these services to their citizens."

Once thought to only contribute in a major way to a small subset of diseases that primarily affect children, genetics is now seen as being important to almost all areas of human health.

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Melbourne, 23 August — The Human Variome Project International Coordinating Office are pleased to announce that Professor Sir John Burn, Deputy Chair of the Project’s International Scientific Advisory Committee will be delivering the 2013 R Douglas Wright Lecture at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday, 3 rd September, 2013.

Professor Sir Burn is currently the lead clinician for the UK National Health Service (North East), and genetics lead for the UK National Institute of Health Research. He was previously a director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine at The University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (2005-2010), and president of the European Society of Human Genetics (2007).

Professor Burn is widely regarded in the field of monogenic disorders particularly in establishing the genetic basis of a neurodegenerative disorder called neuroferritinopathy, and the major form of hereditary colorectal cancer called the Lynch syndrome. He led the study that demonstrated the use of aspirin in reducing the risk of colorectal and other cancers in persons with Lynch syndrome, and leads an international consortium investigating chemoprevention in persons with hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer.

He is currently exploring cell-based vaccines for colorectal cancer, and is involved in a startup company which aims to develop the use of nanowires, nanotubes and nanoribbons in genotyping and gene sequencing.

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Paris, 10 June — Over 150 scientists, diplomats and interested members of the public paused today to commemorate and reflect on three important anniversaries that have dramatically shaped biomedical research and set the stage for the delivery of personalised healthcare. The event, "60 Years of DNA" held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris, France and co-organised by the Human Variome Project and the UNESCO International Basic Sciences Program, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, and the 10th anniversaries of the completion of the Human Genome Project and the adoption of the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data.

In opening the event, Mr David Abraham, Chairman of the Board of Human Variome Project International, which operates the Project’s International Coordinating Office, reminded those present why these anniversaries deserve notice. “Genetics and genomics drastically impacts almost all aspects of human disease. 7 million children are born each year with a genetic disorder or birth defect; 90% of these children are from low income countries. We need better ways to share our genomic knowledge so that all people can share in the benefits of our common genetic heritage.”

The Human Variome Project is an international consortium of scientists and health professionals working to improve global health through the free and open sharing of genetic variation information. “The role of the HVP is to facilitate the collection, curation, interpretation and sharing of genetic variation information across the world,” said Abraham.

The Project has a proud working relationship with UNESCO. “Together we promote research to better understand and manage human disease, to share progress in human genetics across national boundaries and stimulate further breakthroughs,” said UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Mr Getachew Engida. “UNESCO is working to raise awareness among member states about the importance of genetic research especially for health. Governments and other players must invest far more in genetics and genomics. At the same time, we need greater cooperation across borders. Humanity has no choice but to move forward together.”

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Paris, 12 June — During the opening session of its 4 th Biennial Meeting today, the Human Variome Project announced the establishment of a major grant program to be administered in collaboration with the Human Variome Project Chinese Node. The Human Variome Project/China Country Development Program will provide grants of $75,000 to projects that promote knowledge exchange across national boundaries in the areas of medical genetics and genomics.

“Now, more than ever, we are living in a world where our individual genetic makeup will determine the course of the medical treatment we will undergo,” said Professor Xitao Li, Director of the Human Variome Project Chinese Node and a member of the Board of Directors for the
International Human Variome Project, while announcing the HVPCCDP. “But more importantly, we are living in a world that is beginning to realise that every piece of information discovered about our genes and their function will have tremendous impact on a number of people all around the world.”

The aim of the Human Variome Project/China Country Development Program is to support the growth of a viable, sustainable network of HVP Country Nodes across the world. This growing network will support the achievement of the broader aims of the Human Variome Project
including ensuring that all information on genetic variation can be collected, curated, interpreted and shared freely and openly, and that this open sharing will result in speedier, better and cheaper diagnosis and treatment of genetic disorders.

“By focusing on projects involving partnerships of art least two countries we will increase opportunities for collaboration in the field of medical genetic and genomics. In particular, we want to build and strengthen existing collaborations between HVP Consortium members that
have been operating for some time,” said Li.

ENDS

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Q1: Why is the Human Variome Project Meeting?

The Human Variome Project is an international consortium of scientists and health professionals working to improve global health through the free and open sharing of genetic variation information. Every two years the Consortium meets to discuss, debate and decode
on plans and priorities for the next two years.

These meetings have been occurring since the Human Variome Project was initiated in 2006. Since 2010, the meeting has been held at the headquarters of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris, France.

Q2: What will happen at the meeting?

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Beijing, 13 December — The Human Variome Project Beijing Meeting wrapped up yesterday after five days of high level talks between members of the Human Variome Project Consortium and the Human Variome Project Chinese Node. The meeting focussed on encouraging new international collaborations that will enable the world’s genomic knowledge to be shared in a bid to improve global health. A particular focus of the meeting was how low- and middle-income countries can be supported.

The meeting also saw the official opening of the Human Variome Project Chinese Node, a multi-million dollar initiative of the Chinese Government to dramatically improve the country’s capacity in medical genetics, genetic diagnostics and genetic counselling. The Human Variome Project Chinese Node has also committed to undertaking 25% of the total effort required to complete the Human Variome Project, a figure in line with their contribution to the world’s population.

At the close of the meeting the Human Variome Project Consortium released a joint statement with the Human Variome Project Chinese Node, reaffirming their commitment to the free and open sharing of genetic disease in a manner that protects the privacy and dignity of patients and their families. The Human Variome Project next meets at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in June, at their fourth biennial meeting.

ENDS

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The international Human Variome Project Consortium and the Human Variome Project Chinese Node

Recognising that our genes are fundamental to human life and diversity and are a common thread that binds all peoples and cultures,

Emphasising that the free and open sharing of information on genetic variations and their effects will improve human health by enabling faster, cheaper and more accurate diagnosis, therapy and treatment,

Recalling that Article 1 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights states, “The human genome underlies the fundamental unity of all members of the human family, as well as the recognition of their inherent dignity and diversity,”

Noting that the mantra of the Human Variome Project is sharing data · reducing disease, and

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Media Release
For Immediate Release

Beijing, 9 December — The Human Variome Project Beijing Meeting was officially opened this morning at a ceremony involving many local dignitaries including former Ministers of Health and Science. The Human Variome Project Beijing Meeting is a joint meeting of the international Human Variome Project Consortium and the Human Variome Project Chinese Node. It will focus on increasing opportunities for collaboration between China and the international Human Variome Project, which is run out of Melbourne, Australia.

The meeting was addressed by Mr David Abraham, Chairman of the Board, Professor Xitao Li, Human Variome Project Chinese Node Director, Professor Richard Cotton, Human Variome Project Scientific Director, Mr Ramasamy Jayakumar, Programme Specialist at UNESCO, and, via video message, Professor Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate and 1997 Australian of the Year. A welcome message from the Australian Foreign Minister, the Honourable Kevin Rudd, was also read.

Earlier this year, the Chinese Government committed US$300 million to meeting the goals of the Human Variome Project. This money will be spent to improve clinical genetics services in China and ensure that complete information on mutations in 5,000 genes from around the world is made freely and openly available. This meeting is the first step in this process that will take almost 10 years to complete.

The Human Variome Project Beijing Meeting will be a forum where with the support of China, the necessary international collaborations can be discussed, debated and formalised. It will continue to address the complex issues of how collaborative projects can be initiated and developed to produce positive clinical and research outcomes and allow the work to start. Meeting participants are drawn from the most prominent and representative experts in each of the relevant disciplines worldwide. The Human Variome Project Beijing Meeting aims to take the Project to the next level of international collaboration by specifically:

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