$4m investment to combat biosecurity threats

14 Dec 2017

The three attendees are standing next to each other, looking at the camera and smiling

New investment into the Australian Centre for Genomic Epidemiology (Ausgem) will help safeguard the state’s agriculture, horticulture, livestock and equine industries, which underpin the $15 billion primary industries sector in NSW.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Director Science and Research, Dr Jef Hammond said the $4 million joint investment into Ausgem 2 aims to strengthen the state’s capacity to identify and respond to biosecurity threats.

“Ausgem is a partnership between the NSW DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and the ithree institute at the University of Technology Sydney,” Dr Hammond said.

“The NSW DPI has committed to continue this very innovative and successful program for a further three years.

“The development of this successful partnership recognises that human health, animal, plant and environmental health are all linked though the One Health Framework.”

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Technology Sydney, Professor Charles Rice said this big-picture perspective informs the development of biosecurity measures through research focused on disease detection and surveillance, diagnostics, and vaccine development.

“Working together, our focus is to develop and use new technologies to better manage current and emerging biosecurity risks posed by pests and infectious diseases to humans, livestock and plants,” Professor Rice said.

Professor Steven Djordjevic, Ausgem’s UTS research lead, said the genome sequencing program being undertaken in Ausgem is helping researchers to better understand the problem of antimicrobial resistance in Australia.

“The team have amassed hundreds of samples of bacteria from a range of environments, including farms and hospitals, and have already discovered a new mechanism for how pieces of DNA that make the bugs more infectious and difficult to treat are shared,” he said.

“Specifically, we are better able to identify and track how major drug resistance elements circulate among both beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in humans and food animals and how they contaminate wildlife populations in the environment.

“This has significant implications for the design of novel strategies to manage infectious disease outbreaks.”

Ausgem 2 will include additional studies to determine the effectiveness of interventions such as prebiotics, probiotics and vaccines in disease management and as alternatives to antibiotics.

Media contact: Anne Brook (02) 6763 1163 or 0477 358 305