The ANPC team, led by world-renowned phenomics pioneer and academician Professor Jeremy Nicholson, and working with the South Metropolitan Health Service COVID-19 Response Team and the broader Western Australian (WA) healthcare community, has launched a major research and diagnostics project to better understand and predict variation in COVID-19 severity and determine the complex genetic, environmental and lifestyle interactions that influence its pathogenicity in individuals. Later they will engage with clinical trials of novel antiviral agents and when available vaccines in order to predict responder/non-responder outcomes.
Accelerating time to diagnosis
The goal is to deliver diagnostic and prognostic solutions in an accelerated time-frame. Most importantly, the risk of severity of infected patients needs to be assessed rapidly to help guide and optimize the clinical patient pathway. Researchers at the ANPC will use a range of state-of-the-art Avance IVDr nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and timsTOF Pro, Impact II and Solarix MR mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation from Bruker, as well as data modeling approaches, to perform broad and deep metabolic analysis of the molecular, physical and biochemical characteristics of blood plasma and urine samples to create informative translational models. These models will predict variation in the severity of the disease and help understand differential responses to therapeutic interventions.
Professor Nicholson said: “At the ANPC, we are dedicating 100% of our resources to the COVID-19 fight for at least a year. This is the greatest emergent healthcare challenge on the planet and there is no better equipped metabolic lab in Australia, or possibly anywhere in the world, to undertake this type of investigative work in an excellent clinical and hospital framework.
“Linked to our genomics team, led by Professor Simon Mallal and Associate Professor Mark Watson, we’re setting out to identify specific biomarkers of the disease to figure out who has it, how we can detect it and stratify patients by severity risk, and assess the real time patient responses to treatments.”:
Scientific partnership to drive clinical research
Frank H. Laukien, Ph.D, President and CEO of Bruker Corporation, commented: “We are strongly committed to supporting Professor Nicholson and his team scientifically and technically. The comprehensive COVID-19 clinical research plan at Murdoch University into metabolic biomarker patterns of diseases, prognosis, and treatment response is exceptional.
“In particular, I hope that the team can find evidence-based clinical protocols very soon to reduce mortality in ‘phase 2’ of COVID-19 with its life-threatening lower respiratory tract infections. Medical science needs to determine urgently whether broad spectrum antibiotics and/or immunosuppressants improve survival statistics in ‘phase 2’, when viral pneumonia, potential bacterial pneumonia or ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), as well as lung inflammation due to our own immune systems’ cytokine storms, appear to create a very dangerous set of co-morbidities.”
Unique bio sample collection capability
The project will see the ANPC working hand-in-hand with Professor Merrilee Needham of Murdoch University and Notre Dame University, and Professor Toby Richards of the University of Western Australia, who are bringing together the top doctors and researchers from WA through the Western Australian Health Translation Network (WAHTN) led by Professor Gary Geelhood for the COVID-19 Response Team.
It is anticipated that all new COVID-19 patients will be consented for testing on admission and later for clinical trials, with the ANPC running the samples from those trials and tests, including longitudinal urine and plasma metabolic monitoring.
Commenting on the unique position of the WA-based research team, Professor Richards said: “We are in the second wave and have the opportunity to be prepared for COVID-19. We have built a unique platform in WA to collect patient data and bio samples to enable a thorough understanding of the disease and response to treatment.”
Mitigating current and future threats
Understanding the pathways to infection and the biological consequences will enable the development of effective treatments and vaccines to mitigate the current threat to thousands of people across the world. This pioneering work will also prepare us for the threat of viral pandemics in the future.
About the Australian National Phenome Centre
The Australian National Phenome Centre (ANPC), led by Murdoch University (murdoch.edu.au), will transform how long and how well people live, not just in Australia, but around the world. The work of the ANPC supports almost every area of bioscience. It reaches across traditional research silos and fosters a new, more collaborative approach to science. Long-term, the ANPC hopes to build ‘global atlases’ of human disease, providing insights into future health risks which everyone on the planet can benefit from. The only facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the ANPC brings together all five Western Australian universities and leading health and medical research institutes. It is linked to the International Phenome Centre Network and also has wide applications in agriculture and environmental science. The ANPC positions Perth and WA as a global leader in precision medicine, and enables quantum leaps in predicting, diagnosing and treating disease. It is part of the Health Futures Institute at Murdoch University.
Technology and partners
The ANPC is equipped with multiple state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS) instruments from ANPC strategic alliance partners Bruker BioSpin and Bruker Daltonics. Bruker is a manufacturer of scientific instruments for molecular and materials research, as well as for industrial and applied analysis.
A person's phenome is a dynamic fingerprint of their unique biology resulting from the complex interactions between environmental and genetic factors. Phenomics is the study of how the environment and a person’s lifestyle interacts with their genes to influence their health and risk of disease. Metabolic phenotyping is the analysis of biological tissue and fluid to uncover the specific interactions of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors at a molecular level.
Professor Jeremy Nicholson
An internationally renowned pioneer in metabolic phenotyping and systems medicine, Professor Nicholson leads the ANPC. He currently holds the appointment of Pro Vice Chancellor for the Health Futures Institute at Murdoch University. Professor Nicholson is a Highly Cited Scholar who has published more than 800 peer-reviewed papers on molecular aspects of body systems medicine. A Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Nicholson comes to WA from Imperial College London where he was the founding director of the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre and previously Head of Surgery and Cancer. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of Biological Chemistry at Imperial College London.
Professor Elaine Holmes
Another systems medicine pioneer, Professor Holmes is a Highly Cited Scholar and a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. Professor Holmes also comes to WA from Imperial College London where she was previously Head of the Division of Computational and Systems. She is Professor of Computational Medicine and a Premiers’ Fellow, Australian National Phenome Centre, Murdoch University She also holds a current appointment at Imperial College London as Professor of Chemical Biology.
Dr Ruey-Leng Loo
Premier’s Intermediate Fellow, Senior Lecturer, ANPC, Murdoch University.
Professor Toby Richards
Michael Lawrence Brown Chair of Surgery UWA, Honorary Professor Institute of Clinical Trial Methodology University College London, Director COVID Research Response.
Professor Merrilee Needham
Senior Consultant, Director of Research, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch University & University of Notre Dame Australia.
About Bruker Corporation
Bruker is enabling scientists to make breakthrough discoveries and develop new applications that improve the quality of human life. Bruker’s high-performance scientific instruments and high-value analytical and diagnostic solutions enable scientists to explore life and materials at molecular, cellular and microscopic levels. In close cooperation with our customers, Bruker is enabling innovation, improved productivity and customer success in life science molecular research, in applied and pharma applications, in microscopy and nanoanalysis, and in industrial applications, as well as in cell biology, preclinical imaging, clinical phenomics and proteomics research and clinical microbiology.