Prof John Mattick

ProMis Team Member Profile

John-MattickProf John Mattick, BSc, PhD, AO FAA FRCPA (Hons)

Executive Director,

Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Full research profile



Prof Mattick graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Sydney in 1972 and completed a PhD on mitochondrial DNA replication and mutation at Monash University, graduating in 1978. John’s postdoctoral training was in the Department of Biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he cloned the genes and determined the functional architecture of the multifunctional fatty acid synthase complex, now featured in major biochemistry textbooks. In 1982, he joined the CSIRO Division of Molecular Biology in Sydney, where he developed one of the first genetically engineered vaccines (against ovine footrot), and elucidated the molecular genetics of the protective antigen involved in host colonization by a wide variety of bacterial pathogens.

In 1988, Prof Mattick was appointed the Foundation Professor of Molecular Biology and Foundation Director of the Centre for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Queensland, which later became the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, which he directed from 2000-2005. He was also the Foundation Director of the Australian Genome Research Facility (1996-2002) and the ARC Special Research Centre for Functional and Applied Genomics (2000-2002). In 2006 he was awarded an ARC Federation Fellowship, followed by an NHMRC Australia Fellowship in 2010, and pioneered studies on the function of non-coding RNA. He was appointed Executive Director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 2012.

Prof Mattick’s principal research interest is in understanding the role of non-coding RNA in human development, brain function and disease. He was the first to posit that most of the human genome specifies an RNA-based regulatory system. He was a member of the international consortia that discovered the expression of large numbers of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) from mammalian genomes. He discovered ultraconserved elements in the human genome, and was the first to show cell- and stage-specific differential expression and subcellular localization of lncRNAs, their association with chromatin and chromatin-modifying complexes, and their perturbation in cancer and neurological diseases. Prof Mattick also discovered nuclear tiny RNAs associated with transcription start sites and splice junctions, and other classes of small RNAs. He showed that nucleosomes are preferentially positioned at exons, and that alternatively spliced exons are associated with promoters, revealing the dynamic organization of the transcriptionsplicing complex.

Prof Mattick has received many awards, most recently the Julian Wells Medal (2009) of the Lorne Genome Society, Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science (2008), the inaugural Gutenberg Professorship of the University of Strasbourg (2008), the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Medal (2011), and the Human Genome Organisation’s Chen Award for Distinguished Achievement in Human Genetic and Genomic Research (2012).