Vanessa Tyrrell joined Children’s Cancer Institute in 2015 to drive the development and implementation of the national Zero Childhood Cancer Personalised Medicine Program (ZERO), having worked across all aspects of diagnostic genetics for the previous 30 years.
Vanessa is best known for her leadership in and representation of the Australian human genetics community as genetics has grown to revolutionise healthcare globally. She has actively contributed to state and federal governments’ and professional bodies’ advisory committees and is currently President of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (HGSA).
ZERO is Australia’s first personalised medicine program for children with high-risk or relapsed cancer. Led jointly by Children’s Cancer Institute and Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, the program involves collaboration between all major Australian clinical and research groups working in childhood cancer.
‘ZERO is a game-changer in the care of child cancers,’ says Vanessa. ‘It is blazing a trail for the use of precision medicine in mainstream healthcare to improve health outcomes for children and adults alike.’
From 2015-2017, Vanessa coordinated the successful completion of a two-year pilot feasibility study, during which time all of ZERO’s testing platforms, pipelines and logistics were evaluated and validated. In September 2017, the ZERO national clinical trial was launched, involving children with high-risk cancers at all eight child oncology centres across Australia. The announcement in April 2020 of joint funding by the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Minderoo Foundation has enabled the extension of ZERO which, by 2023, will become available to all Australian children diagnosed with cancer.
As well as ensuring the efficient, effective, and clinically responsible delivery of all aspects of ZERO, Vanessa is working to build the Program into a sustainable national platform. ‘The aim throughout ZERO has been to lay the foundations of a path to implementing a personalised medicine program within the Australian health system,’ she says. ‘I want to see all children with cancer have equitable access to personalised medicine in the future.’
Vanessa has extensive experience in oncology, clinical, and prenatal diagnostic genetics service delivery in public and private sectors, industry leadership in Asia Pacific, laboratory management, accreditation and quality assurance, and policy and leadership development. She holds an MBA in general management, is an Associate of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA), and a Fellow of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (HGSA).
2018: The Kids Cancer Project – “Science Project of the Year”