04 October 2017
Professor John Mattick AO FAA FAHMS, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, was today awarded the 2017 Lemberg Medal. The Medal recognises Professor Mattick’s excellence in biochemistry and molecular biology and his outstanding contributions to the scientific community.
Professor Mattick received his medal today at ComBio 2017 in Adelaide, where he delivered the Lemberg Medal Lecture, entitled RNA at the epicentre of human development and cognition.
Awarded annually by the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the Lemberg Medal is presented in memory of Emeritus Professor M.R. Lemberg, who was the Society’s first President and Honorary Member. Past recipients include some of Australia’s most accomplished scientists, including Professor Suzanne Cory AC FAA FRS, Professor Phillip Nagley AM (who co-supervised Prof Mattick’s PhD thesis), Professor Richard Harvey AM FAA FRS and Professor Doug Hilton AO FAA.
Professor Mattick’s award recognises his remarkable contribution to our understanding of the noncoding DNA (DNA that is not translated into proteins) that occupies 98% of the human genome. Through decades of research, he has overturned the notion that this noncoding DNA is "junk", showing instead that they are transcribed into RNA (a temporary copy of the DNA template) in a highly dynamic and cell-specific way. He has also shown that these transcribed RNA molecules function mainly by guiding the epigenetic process that control normal development and brain function, and that they are perturbed in many diseases, including cancer and neurological disorders. This finding – a genuine paradigm shift in biology – has opened up entirely new fields of investigation, and provides genuine insight into the genetic programming of human diversity.
Professor Mattick is also acknowledged to be a leading force in genomics – with a strong belief in the potential of population-scale genome sequencing to transform our approach to healthcare, and our understanding of disease. He was the Foundation Director of the Australian Genome Research Facility, which provides DNA analysis services to Australian academia and industry. Since becoming Executive Director of Garvan in 2012, Professor Mattick has placed genomics, and the integration of genomic and clinical data, at the centre of the Institute’s research and translational strategies.
At Garvan, Professor Mattick established the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, one of the first centres in the world to acquire the Illumina X10 DNA sequencing system, and now one of the world’s largest human genome centres. He also oversaw the establishment of one of the first clinically accredited (ISO15189) human genome analysis companies, Genome.One, and Australia’s first genome medicine clinic, in conjunction with St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.
Professor Mattick says, “It is an honour to be recognised for my work by colleagues in the Australian biochemistry and molecular biology community, particularly since my ideas about the information content of the human genome, and the central importance of genomics to biology and medicine, have taken a long time to be accepted.”
Professor John Shine, who preceded Professor Mattick as Executive Director of Garvan, says, “Professor Mattick has pioneered both the understanding of our human genome and, importantly, its exciting application to the prevention and treatment of disease. Through his insights into the complexity of our genetic blueprint and his commitment to the use of this knowledge for more effective healthcare, we can look forward to improvement in quality of life for generations to come.”
Professor Leann Tilley, ASBMB President says, “Professor Mattick is an extremely deserving recipient of the award. The award recognise his pioneering research uncovering the hidden treasures in our genome, his technical work developing new methods for high-resolution transcriptome analysis and his translational work establishing one of the world’s leading centres for human genome sequencing, thereby providing services and tools to enable precision healthcare.”