The Centre is being inaugurated at a critical time in the socio-economic development of Malta. Advanced education and training create work-places with much higher value added. Mater Dei Hospital and the Life Sciences Park across the road from the University should complement each other in the further development of Life Science Research and Medical Biotechnology. It is anticipated that some of the fruits of the Centre may be translated into new business development by indigenous Maltese companies that may be located in the Life Sciences Park. They will benefit all, both from a health and an economic perspective, permitting new tools for investment.
Research on Human Genomics and Genetics Medicine has been conducted at the University for many years, but more so in the last 30. It has resulted in a number of Master, Ph.D. and postdoctoral students taking up the mantle in this field. As the research programs grew, the need for this Centre became more acute. Today, some 25 brand new state of the art laboratories will come into operation to house these researchers. Hence for the very first time, the University will have in place the critical mass to enhance new advances in this specific area of health that is moving more and more up a path towards what is becoming known as personalised or precision medicine, i.e. 'your own treatment for your own disease'.
The researchers in this case try to understand the role of particular molecules that form part of the intricate pathways within the body that give rise, for example, to the formation of new cells and in turn the death of cells at the appropriate time. Errors give rise to Congenital Disorders or even Cancer, and some Rare Diseases. These molecules in turn are synthesised by our cells in which the blue-print is held in our DNA. The Human Genome encodes around 30,000 genes and the code per se is written in 3 billion letters. Sequencing the genome, and, more to the point the Maltese Genome, has been accomplished by University researchers that form a core part of the Centre. In the meantime, they established the Malta Biobank that provided the essential samples under high quality standards through its membership in EuroBioBank and the BioBanking and BioMolecular Resources Research Infrastructure of the European Commission, in which the Government of Malta is represented. Consequently, it is now possible to study the role of particular genes and their resultant molecules, both in health and disease, for the discovery of new personalised medicines.
From a disease perspective for example, academic researchers from the University of Malta have discovered the gene that is responsible for switching the constituents of our red blood cells from a foetal type to an adult type shortly after birth. In some blood disorders, this sometimes does not take place in the right manner because of alterations of certain genes. This, and later discoveries may be critical to find new treatments for these rare blood disorders. Recently, the trail that led to this eureka moment was depicted in a science programme prepared by PBS in co-operation with the Research Trust of the University entitled “Lab to Life” and aired on TVM.
To date, major inroads have also been made with respect to diabetes, osteoporosis, certain types of cancers, heart disorders and some others.