BABS PhD student Ashton Curry-Hyde chats APR Intern

Dr Lisa Selbie

Who would have thought that your precious furry friend could open doors in biotechnology? Ashton’s Archie did just that. Through a neighbourly friendship with a fellow dog owner,

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Ashton Curry-Hyde was able to get connected to the CEO of GenieUs Genomics, Matt Keon, and the result is a valuable working partnership to benefit Ashton, her PhD research, Ashton’s supervisor Dr Michael Janitz, and GenieUs Genomics. 

Fortunately, Matt was aware of the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern Program (APR.Intern), developed to connect academic research labs and motivated PhD students with industry partners for short term research projects. Th eprogram is supported by both the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment and MTPConnect’s Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) initiative.

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Ashton’s work with GenieUs Genomics has involved applying the latest techniques in understanding the human genome to find new solutions for the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form of Motor Neurone Disease.

'My internship has involved analysing somatic variants in the genetic information of humans who suffered from ALS. I am using sequencing data from an ALS patient post-mortem tissue database to quantify the somatic mutation load in the donor tissues (those which are not germline variants (i.e. inherited)). This type of analysis on non-inherited mutations is previously unexplored in ALS, meaning the research is providing a potentially novel understanding of ALS and its disease profile. Given the disease is degenerative and terminal, advancing today’s understanding of its typology is important to leading, in time and with more research, to better prevention, prognostic and treatment outcomes for those who suffer from it.

Incorporating this analytical approach into GenieUs Genomics’ bioinformatic assessment tool will assist in the identification of molecular and other risk factors that influence the disease’s expression in ALS patients.'

Ashton reflected on the benefits of the APR.Intern Program; for her academic supervisor - support of the research work; for GenieUs Genomics - valuable analytical results to aid the development of their products; for Ashton - the experience has helped her gain insight and a better understanding of the practical research environment and business imperatives driving a project with commercial potential and real benefits for patients.