Meet Dr Susan Pond Phenomics Australia Board member

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We are pleased to introduce Dr Susan Pond AM, FRSN FTSE FAHMS, Phenomics Australia Board member. Susan is an experienced leader in business & academia, recognized for her national & international contributions in science, technology and medicine. She is the current president of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Five questions with Susan Pond: an interview with a Phenomics Australia Board member

1. How did you first become interested in science and research?

Having enjoyed and excelled at all subjects at school, I was accepted in my last year of high school to attend the Harry Messel International Science School at the University of Sydney. This opened my eyes to the elegance and excitement of science. I graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney, obtained a Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and then added research credentials through a Doctor of Medicine degree at the. University of New South Wales. Throughout my career, I remain enthralled with medicine, science & technology, and the power of creating impact by combining disciplines and working at the intersections between them.

Dr Susan Pond, Phenomics Australia Board member

2. How do you think Phenomics Australia currently provides value to researchers, and are there any planned new capabilities which will be available soon?

National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) facilities such as Phenomics Australia play an important role in Australia’s innovation ecosystem. Underpinned by public investment, they build and sustain our state-of-the-art research capacity at scale and over the long term. Bringing together a wide range of researchers and expert technical staff in a collaborative environment enables them to rapidly access the new research technologies and state-of-the-art instrumentation necessary to underpin cutting-edge research. Phenomics Australia provides Australian biomedical researchers with the tools and models to support large-scale, systematic study of gene function and emerging genomic medicine approaches to understanding and treating disease. Increasingly, it is adding CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technologies to its portfolio. This Nobel-prize-winning genome editing tool is revolutionising the research and cure of genetic diseases.

3. Since joining Phenomics Australia, how do you think the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) has evolved and where do you see it heading?

One of the most important evolutions has been the creation of the NCRIS Health Group which comprises Bioplatforms Australia, the National Imaging Facility, the Population Health Research Network, Therapeutic Innovation Australia and Phenomics Australia. Each facility makes a significant contribution to health research in Australia and internationally. Working collaboratively as the Health Group, we enable researchers to investigate complex problems that are not solved easily by a single discipline or technology by providing rapid access to cutting-edge technologies and the ability to handle, store, interpret and make decisions based on linking large, complex data sets. Harnessing the power of collaboration and multiple infrastructure platforms is the way of the future for biomedical research and translation.

4. What do you think are the big challenges and opportunities in Precision Medicine from an infrastructure provider perspective?

Precision medicine is transforming healthcare by moving from a one-size-fits-all to personalised treatment and care based on the genetic or molecular understanding of each patient’s disease. This transformation presents a daunting challenge because of the wide range of fields of research involved such as on rare diseases, cancer, pharmacogenomics, infectious diseases, complex diseases and the need to integrate with expertise in high throughput sequencing technologies, big data, artificial intelligence, ethical and legal issues, clinical development of targeted therapies, health economics, healthcare companies and education. The opportunities afforded by precision medicine are enormous. Every day we see examples of improved survival or even cure of patients with previously untreatable diseases, in particular cancer. Providing the infrastructure necessary to underpin precision medicine requires a national, integrated multiplatform approach such as that being taken here in Australia by the NCRIS Health Group.

5. If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be doing instead?

Although I am sure that the reality is quite different, I could see myself working in the movie industry, particularly in sci-fi. Bringing new perspectives and futuristic ideas to audiences young and old would draw on the talents of an amazing array of people from a wide range of fields and involve a myriad of state-of-the-art technologies.

The Phenomics Australia Board provides oversight and strategic guidance for all Phenomics Australia activities and investments. The Board members provide extensive experience in scientific strategy, biomedical research, policy, governance, industry engagement and commercialisation.

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