- Mar 16 2017 at 12:01 AM
The comments from Mr Ferris come ahead of a speech on Thursday to the Australian American Chamber of Commerce, where he will outline the six key challenges for the country to become a "top tier innovation nation".
They will form the backbone of the recommendations Innovation and Science Australia is preparing to deliver to the government by the end of the year to position Australia to be a global innovation leader by 2030.
"We're looking to 2030 and setting out what Australia can hope to be doing in a world leading sense," he said. "The one I'm most optimistic about is under the banner of digital health service delivery and medical documentation and history platforms, with these leading to better preventative procedures, analysis, big data access and all manner of new business applications.
"Big data will also fall under the heading of precision medicine, which stems from our capabilities in gene sequencing and pathology analysis. That is a huge area of activity and from our analysis Australia is already right up there and could be positioned at the front of the bus."
Precision medicine aims to create targeted therapies for individuals based on unique factors such their genes, environment and lifestyle. One branch of precision medicine is pharmacogenomics, which examines how genes affect a person's response to particular drugs.
The country already has the Australian Genome Referencing Facility, with the Melbourne branch based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, while Sydney has the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute. In November 2015 the National Health and Medical Research Council made the second largest grant in its history of $25 million to the Australian Genomic Health Alliance, a national network of 47 partner organisations including research institutes, hospitals and universities.
Mr Ferris said the medical sector was already world-class when it came to knowledge creation and the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund would lead to more commercial successes. He also said the Department of Health's My Health Record database would open up new opportunities for start-ups.
"My Health Record works on an opt-out basis and privacy issues have already been well covered and in that sense we're ahead of almost anyone in the world ... it can become a valuable resource for better service delivery, prognosis, diagnosis and the basis for a whole pile of new business applications, including precision medicine," he said.