NHMRC Recognises John Mattick, John Shine and Peter Wills

Researchers chosen by the NHMRC’s Internal Scientific Planning Group and a Scientific Steering Committee, following public consultation.

Professor John Mattick

14 January 2014

Professor John Mattick AO FAA FRCPA (Hon) and Professor John Shine AO FAA FRCPA (Hon), the current Executive Director of Garvan and his predecessor, as well as a previous Chair of the Garvan Board, Mr Peter Wills AC, are included in a list of all-time highest achievers in Australian health and medical research, recognised by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) as part of its 75th anniversary.

The researchers were chosen by the NHMRC’s Internal Scientific Planning Group and a Scientific Steering Committee, following public consultation.

Professor Mattick has revolutionised our understanding of human genetics. He discovered that the so-called ‘junk DNA’, which comprises the vast majority of the human genome but does not code for proteins, actually plays a strong regulatory role in our differentiation and development. He also discovered important features of bacterial pathogenesis and developed one of the first recombinant DNA-based vaccines to combat animal infections.

This work was honoured by the 2011 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Medal, and the Human Genome Organisation 2012 Chen Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Human Genetic and Genomic Research.

The Foundation Director of the Australian Genome Research Facility and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, Professor Mattick has been the Executive Director of Garvan since January 2012.

Professor Shine became world-renowned for a series of discoveries he made between 1975 and 1985 that furthered our understanding of how genes are turned into the proteins that do the work in cells (the gene sequence for controlling protein synthesis has come to be known as the ‘Shine-Dalgarno sequence’). He cloned the first human hormone genes, and in the process developed sophisticated gene cloning techniques that helped transform the world of biotechnology.

In 2010, Professor Shine was awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, recognising these discoveries, which then gave rise to thousands of cloned medicines. In 2011, he received the inaugural Peter Wills Medal, created by Research Australia “to recognise an outstanding contribution to building Australia’s national and international reputation in the realm of health and medical research”.

John Shine was Chairman of the NHMRC from 2003-2006, Vice President of Biological Sciences at the Australian Academy of Science from 2002-2007, and was the Executive Director of Garvan from 1990-2012. He is currently Chairman of CSL Ltd, Australia's leading biopharmaceutical company, as well as President of the Museum of Applied Arts and Science (Powerhouse Museum and Sydney Observatory). 

Peter Wills chaired one of the most important reviews of health and medical research in Australia. Commissioned by the Australian Government and completed in 1999, the Wills Report played a significant role in bringing medical research to the attention of the media and increasing funding for the sector.

Formerly an Executive Chairman of CRI Australia, he applied the skills developed in the infrastructure and property industries to the management and funding of medical research. Mr Wills was Chair of Garvan from 1993-2001. He is also a former Chair of the Australian Research Council, and served as a member of The Biotechnology Consultative Group advising on the development of the National Biotechnology Strategy. In 2011/12 Mr Wills chaired the NSW Health and Medical Research Strategic Review for the NSW Government. He is currently Deputy Chair of Research Australia.

In 1996 Mr Wills was appointed a Member, and then in 2001 a Companion, in the General Division of the Order of Australia, for service to social and economic advancement through the development of public policy in relation to biomedical research and biotechnology.