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20 Mar 2018

Visionary researcher Chris Goodnow to take the helm at Garvan Institute

Professor Chris Goodnow, who will succeed Professor John Mattick as Garvan's Executive Director, is one of Australia's most outstanding scientists and an internationally recognised expert in the immune system.

Sydney, Australia: The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Chris Goodnow FAA FRS as its next Executive Director*.

One of Australia’s most outstanding scientists, Professor Goodnow is an internationally recognised expert in the immune system. Throughout his career he has pioneered the use of DNA technology and genome sequencing to reveal how the immune system distinguishes between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ – and, in particular, how these processes go awry in autoimmune disease.

 Professor Goodnow is currently Deputy Director of Garvan, and Head of the Immunogenomics Laboratory in Garvan’s Immunology Division. He holds The Bill and Patricia Ritchie Foundation Chair, is Conjoint Professor at UNSW Sydney in the St Vincent’s Clinical School (Faculty of Medicine), and is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow.

Prof Goodnow succeeds Professor John Mattick AO FAA as Executive Director. He will assume his new role as Executive Director upon the completion of Professor Mattick’s Directorship.

Dr John Schubert AO, Chairman of Garvan, said that Professor Goodnow’s appointment as Executive Director would see the Institute go from strength to strength in its mission to make major impacts on human health through medical research. The appointment would cement Garvan’s position as the leading genomics centre in Australia, he said.

Dr Schubert added, “As a Board, we are unanimously delighted that Chris has agreed to become the Institute’s fourth Director. The clear frontrunner from an international leadership search, Chris is a scientist of remarkable ability and foresight, and a leader of great vision and warmth – and he is held in exceptionally high regard by everyone on the Garvan team.

“Chris first came to Garvan as Deputy Director in 2015. In the three years he has been here, he has driven several exceptional research and clinical endeavours – most notably a close and wide-ranging partnership with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science – that are key to Garvan’s pioneering work in unlocking the power of precision medicine through genomics.”

Professor Goodnow said he was energised and inspired by those who had led Garvan before.

“Since its beginnings in 1963, this great Institute has benefited from outstanding leadership. The first full-time Director, Prof Leslie Lazarus AO, transformed Garvan into a major medical research institute; he was followed by Prof John Shine AC, an extraordinary pioneer of DNA research to improve human health who led the Institute into the era of genetics and genomics; and most recently Prof John Mattick AO, who since 2012 has transformed the Institute into one of the world’s leading clinical genomics centres, and has positioned Garvan to make a major contribution to the transformation of medicine and healthcare. It’s my absolute pleasure to accept the Executive Directorship, and to build on the legacy of these pre-eminent leaders.”

Professor Goodnow continued, “Garvan really is a remarkable place. We now have some of the most powerful technologies on the planet to explore our DNA and our cells, to understand how that shapes our health as individuals – along with terrific research across a wide range of disease areas and, crucially, outstanding connections with St Vincent’s Hospital, with UNSW Sydney, and with hospitals around Sydney and Australia, which are speeding the translation of our research into real clinical impacts.

“Most of all, though, it is Garvan’s people – from researchers to support staff, management and our generous donors – who make the Institute the inspiring and outcome-focused place that it is. I’m very much looking forward to working with Garvan’s driven and talented team as we strive, through our research and clinical endeavours, to make a meaningful difference to the health and wellbeing of Australians and people around the world. I would especially like to acknowledge Julia and Ruth Ritchie and The Bill and Patricia Ritchie Foundation, who helped bring me to Garvan and who have provided an unwavering level of support and encouragement.”

“Our parents understood the immense value of philanthropy and medical research, and we’re proud to carry on their legacy of giving back. On behalf of the family and Board of The Bill and Patricia Ritchie Foundation, we are excited for Professor Goodnow, for Garvan and the future of precision medicine. As a scientist and a leader, Chris has already inspired all those with whom he works. Professor John Mattick is passing the baton to very sure hands,” added Ruth and Julia Ritchie.

* Professor Goodnow’s appointment is subject to the formal approval of His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor of New South Wales, under the precepts of Section 7 of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research Act (1984).


 About Professor Chris Goodnow

Professor Goodnow holds The Bill and Patricia Ritchie Foundation Chair and is Conjoint Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW Sydney, NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Head of the Immunogenomics laboratory and Deputy Director at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. Professor Goodnow has today been announced as the next Executive Director of Garvan.

With an American father and Australian mother, Professor Goodnow grew up in Washington DC before moving to Sydney as a teenager. He trained in veterinary medicine and surgery, immunochemistry and immunology at the University of Sydney and in DNA technology at Stanford University. After doctoral studies begun at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne and performed at Sydney University, he joined the faculty of Stanford University Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1990. There he established the concept of multiple immune tolerance checkpoints, a framework now widely used in cancer treatment with “checkpoint inhibitors”, and revealed the function of key genes in these checkpoints including FAS, CD86, PTPN6/SHP1, and later AIRE.

To pioneer genome-wide analysis of the DNA sequences controlling the immune system, he joined the faculty at the Australian National University in 1997 as Professor and founding Director of the Medical Genome Centre, leading its development into a major national research facility, the Australian Phenomics Facility. That effort revealed critical, entirely unknown functions of fourteen essential genes controlling the immune system, including CARD11, ROQUIN1, HNRNPLL, THEMIS, DOCK8, ATP11C, SPPL2A, ZFP318, GSDMD and ETAA1, as well as four previously obscure genes in neurodegeneration and infertility.

Professor Goodnow joined Garvan in 2015, to translate genomic DNA sequence analysis of the human immune system into understanding the cause of immune disorders and developing more effective, personalised treatments. In his time at Garvan, he has forged a close partnership between Garvan and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, and has overseen the development of the multi-million dollar Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics, the only multidisciplinary centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere. He has been key to the development of CIRCA (Clinical Immunogenomics Research Consortium Australia), a Garvan-led national initiative that seeks to diagnose, understand and treat individuals with rare immune disorders through a combination of genomic DNA sequencing, clinical expertise and biomedical research.

Professor Goodnow is now leading Hope Research – a transformative research program that is an initiative of the Garvan-Weizmann partnership and is supported by The Bill and Patricia Ritchie Foundation. Hope Research aims to uncover a common cause for all autoimmune disease, which include more than 100 different diseases that collectively affect one in eight people. Using single cell DNA sequencing, Professor Goodnow and his team are tracking down and identifying the ‘rogue’ immune cells in the blood of adults with 36 autoimmune diseases, which drive the immune system to attack parts of the body.

Professor Goodnow’s research contributions have been recognised by numerous awards, including the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Pharmingen Investigator Award, AAI Distinguished Lecturer, Australasian Society for Immunology Burnet Orator, Gottschalk Medal, Health Minister’s Prize, Centenary Medal, Ramaciotti Medal, GSK Award for Research Excellence, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), and Member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He was President of the Australasian Society for Immunology in 2015-2016.

Beyond his research endeavours, Professor Goodnow enjoys spending time with his family and surfing at Sydney’s Manly Beach and on the NSW South Coast. Surfing has been a passion since Professor Goodnow’s school days, and he is well known in surfing circles for leading a 1980 expedition discovering the now-famous breaks in Indonesia’s remote Mentawai Islands.


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Garvan Institute of Medical Research

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