Social dimensions - into the panoply of precision and personalisation

Project leader

Associate Professor Matthew Kearnes

Big questions

How can we understand the social dimensions of personalised and precision medicine, at the interface between bio- and nano- technology? While social science methodologies have often struggled to keep pace with new and emerging technologies – and have largely separated social questions from processes of technology development – the core objective of this project is to explore, in real-time, how the novel configuration of material and human relations in bionanotechnology may bring about profound transformations in contemporary healthcare practice. This program is designed to document the ‘imagined social worlds’ that underpin research in precision and personalised medicine, particularly in areas such as bio-nano sensor technologies, targeted cancer therapies and vaccines. The program will also explore the ways in which advances in precision medicine rely upon advances in computational models and tools and the development of large-scale health databases and patient characterisation methodologies. Utilising ethnographic and engagement methods the program therefore seeks to uncover how research across these fields may precipitate new social and healthcare practices. Finally, this program will provide insights into the regulatory responses to ‘precision medicine’ both in Australia, and in Australia.


The development of bio-nano technologies, together with advances in precision and personalised medicine, are likely to precipitate profound changes in health care practice. By exploring the social dimensions of research across this area of work, in collaboration with key CBNS research initiatives, this program will provide insights into the societal dimensions of predictive bio-nano technologies.