Governor, Mrs de Kretser, Ladies and Gentlemen.
My name is David Abraham. I am a Director of The CASS Foundation but otherwise when it comes to the Human Variome Project, I am a layperson. The Human Variome Project can deliver better health outcomes, speedier diagnosis, speedier and more effective treatment, and saves money, lives and personal and family suffering. It is already starting to do this, both in Australia and internationally. My role tonight is to tell you what you can do for the Human Variome Project. I will briefly touch on 4 areas: - Firstly why me and why you? Secondly, why Victoria and why Melbourne? Thirdly, why you should not assume your Government will provide the necessary funds. And lastly, what you can do to assist?
As I said, I am a Director of The CASS Foundation. We fund medical and science research and some education projects. We were introduced to the Human Variome Project a few years ago. We were told that the mapping of the Gene had been a major advance but now it was critical to map the defects in the gene if diagnosis and treatment of many diseases was to be effective, both here in Australia and worldwide. This could make a serious difference. It was described to me that the Human Variome Project was like a wheel, the spokes were each gene project of research, such as colorectal cancer, or Cystic Fibrosis, or in fact so many of the illnesses from which we will inevitably suffer, and that the Hub of the wheel was the coordinating office that set the protocols for collection of the data, and therefore the nerve centre for this project. Knowledge, and access to this knowledge, is critical. I understood this description. My Wife, who is here tonight, and I had 2 God children, both with Cystic Fibrosis. The first, who was born in London, was always a sick child. The second born 2 years later in Melbourne, was immediately diagnosed and treated leading to the oldest then being diagnosed and treated. But he always struggled and later as a young man succumbed. The younger survives today and leads a productive life and is a father himself. But everyone in this room is the same as me. You each know of a family member or a friend who suffers from a sickness that can be traced to a gene defect.
Secondly, why Victoria, why Melbourne? We should understand that Melbourne is recognised as a leading centre for research and innovation. We are able to fight above our weight on the international stage. I was able to attend an International forum in Melbourne a few years ago that eagerly endorsed the establishment of the Human Variome Coordinating office in Melbourne. This again occurred in Paris in May this year under the auspices of UNESCO. The Office could go anywhere, but I am parochial enough to say Melbourne should not lose this opportunity to lead the world and with the guidance of Professor Dick Cotton and his team, that is the endorsed approach of the international professionals in this area and it is a tremendous endorsement of the efforts to date. After all, the Europeans do not want it housed in the US and vice versa, but, and it is a big but, we need to make it happen in Melbourne.
Thirdly, the role of Government. There is a perception that Government gives money for this type of project. Naturally we need Government assistance and in an election year I would hope that more assistance will be forthcoming. But Government seems to find it difficult to fund what is not a pure research project. What we need to do is to convince members on both sides of politics that the Human Variome Project is a fantastic platform that encourages research, that collates and collects and makes available information that inevitably leads to speedier and better diagnosis, better treatment, less cost and relieves suffering. Government has helped, but we do need urgent and increased funding to continue the work of the coordinating office. We also need to demonstrate to the rest of the world community that we in Melbourne can succeed with this important project.