Azure Hermes (Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator) and Professor Simon Easteal (Director) were invited to attend the Closing the Genomics Research Gap Symposium at McGill University in Montreal, Canada in June. This important meeting brought together genome science researchers, policy experts and clinicians from around the world to discuss the effects of disparity in genome research and ways to address it.
Azure and Simon gave a very successful interactive presentation, delighted to be told later that it is unusual for a Canadian audience to engage in such a way, and with such enthusiasm.
Our second presentation was in a session with a focus on Indigenous and third world populations. Professor Laura Arbour from Victoria University gave a presentation on their recently funded Canadian project, The Silent Genome. There is a great opportunity to share knowledge and experience with this project and much we can learn from each other.
From a scientific perspective, two other talks in particular, lent new support to the importance of NCIG's work, identifying an additional reason why findings from European populations cannot necessarily be applied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The papers showed how demographic history alone - small size, rapid expansion/contraction etc. - can profoundly affect how genomes and environment interact to affect health and disease. For two populations with different demographic histories, a genetic variant that is rare and pathogenic in one can be common and benign in another.