May 23, 2022
Dr Joep Vissers at a 2018 Melbourne Genomics workshop.

For Dr Joep Vissers, a Melbourne Genomics workshop was the catalyst he needed to make the move from research into the clinical genomics space.

Dr Vissers was at the end of his post-doc at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre when he signed up for our variant interpretation workshop in 2018. By that time, he had decided he wanted to do something other than laboratory research.

Variant interpretation is the process of finding and prioritising the variants (or gene changes) found in a genomic test, then collecting and curating evidence to determine how likely they are to explain the cause of a condition or cancer and identifying treatments the patient may respond to.

"[The workshop] was a great experience. The materials were good, the delivery was good, it was very comprehensive. The presenters took us through all of the steps curators go through. It was also a good opportunity to pick their brains," said Dr Vissers.

"But more than that, it gave me a new way of thinking, especially as someone with a research background."

"In research, you try to generate new knowledge. In clinical pathology, you use the knowledge you have to best interpret the variants," he said.

Today, Dr Vissers is Curation Team Leader at the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research and Department of Clinical Pathology. He also teaches cancer biology at the University.

"The materials I received way back in 2018, I still use to train curators when they join my team."

"Most of them have a background in research, so I bring the same approach as the workshop and try to apply that to them as well."

Dr Vissers is in the middle of developing a new subject on the biology and treatment of cancer, which will be offered to first year medical students at Melbourne Medical School.

"Similar to how I train new members of my curation team, I also use Melbourne Genomics education materials in teaching University students. This subject in particular will utilise a great resource from the learn-genomics website," he said.

"A lot of current clinicians are quite sceptical about genomics and in my opinion, they – and their patients – are missing out. Going forward, they are going to be confronted with more and more genomics. I'm highly committed to teaching cancer genomics and precision oncology to the next generation of medical practitioners ."

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*Image features Dr Joep Vissers at a 2018 Melbourne Genomics workshop.


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