'We want to make a fundamental shift in the health system for people living with cancer'

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Omico CEO and director Ian Black spoke with BioPharmaDispatch as the organisation achieved a major milestone, with over 5,000 Australians referred for free comprehensive genomic profiling as part of the Precision Oncology Screening Platform Enabling Clinical Trials (PrOSPeCT).

PrOSPeCT, the brainchild of Omico founder Professor David Thomas, was established in 2023 to provide 23,000 Australians with comprehensive genomic profiling of their cancer at no cost.

It focuses on advanced or incurable cancers and the earlier diagnoses of cancers with poor prognoses rather than specific cancer types.

Data collected from the 5,000 referrals has found three out of four have an actionable genetic biomarker identified within their cancer.

"David could take you on the journey from where it started almost seven or eight years ago, doing a small study in Victoria, to now having 49 centres across Australia and screening 23,000 patients," said Mr Black.

PrOSPeCT has a range of partners and multiple funding sources. It has $185 million, including $61.2 million in grant funding from the federal government's Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

"The thing with PrOSPeCT was this concept that we could create an ecosystem where patients would get their comprehensive genomic profiling paid for, but it wasn't going to be paid for just by the government, and it wasn't going to be paid for just by industry. We created a sustainable model that meant patients could get screened.

"That, for me, was where the journey started. I observed that David's ambition brings people along with it, and those ideas help spur other ideas. It's also a uniquely positioned organisation. It's not purely publicly funded, and it's not purely privately funded, so we have this position in the middle of both government and industry where we're able to perceive both sides and be seen as a bit of an honest broker as an organisation who truly represents the interests of all parties, patients, clinicians, government, and industry."

Mr Black said the organisation had grown rapidly to deliver 164 direct highly-skilled roles and 820 indirect jobs across health, administration, pathology and pharmacy.

"We are like the duck on a pond, serene on the surface but paddling big time. A lot of things are happening to drive patient referrals—obviously, a lot of interaction with clinicians and a network of 49 centres. We've employed a couple of people to interact more frequently with the clinical community and the patient advocacy groups to make them aware of our offerings. So there's a lot of work and drive to it. We must push and drive to reach our target of 23,000 patients."

The former senior Roche executive is building and developing the corporate aspects of the Omico organisation. He said Omico is also focused on shaping the health system.

"We've fundamentally shifted how clinical trials operate in Australia. However, we think we can take it further because clinical trials are only available to specific groups of patients or people."

He said Omico's PrOSPeCT highlights the health system's challenges in its precision oncology adoption.

'We want to make a fundamental shift in the health system for people living with cancer so that if you're an Australian living with cancer, you can access comprehensive genomic profiling without having to pay for it. That's where we want to get to because that'll drive precision oncology in the future," added Mr Black.