THE 2017 LEMBERG MEDAL: JOHN MATTICK
GARVAN INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH
John Mattick is the Executive Director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. He obtained his BSc with First Class Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Sydney, and his PhD in Biochemistry from Monash University, under the supervision of Professor Tony Linnane and Professor Phillip Nagley. He then undertook postdoctoral training with Professor Salih Wakil at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where his work on the architecture of the fatty acid synthase complex is now featured in biochemistry textbooks.
John returned to Australia in 1982 to join the (then) CSIRO Division of Molecular Biology, where he developed one of the world’s first genetically engineered vaccines (against ovine footrot).
In 1988, he joined the University of Queensland as the Foundation Professor of Molecular Biology and Director of the Centre for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, which later became the ARC Special Research Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, and ultimately the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB). John was also the Foundation Director of the Australian Genome Research Facility (1996–2002) and the ARC Special Research Centre for Functional and Applied Genomics.
In 2006, John relinquished the IMB Directorship to take up an ARC Federation Fellowship (and later an NHMRC Australia Fellowship) to work on his longstanding conviction that the vast amounts of untranslated RNAs that are expressed from the genomes of complex organisms are not junk, but rather an extensive regulatory system responsible for guiding the epigenetic trajectories of development.
He had first published his hypothesis after a sabbatical in Cambridge in 1994, and in the ensuing two decades, showed the extensive transcription of intronic, intergenic and antisense RNAs, their highly dynamic and specific cellular and subcellular expression, their association with chromatin-modifying complexes and their involvement in development and disease. He also discovered ultraconserved elements in the human genome and several classes of small RNAs, and, in conjunction with colleagues, developed new methods for high-resolution transcriptome analysis.
John returned to Sydney in 2012, where he established the Garvan Institute as one of the world’s leading centres for human genome sequencing and oversaw the launch of Genome.One, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Garvan and one of the world’s first clinically accredited whole genome sequencing companies.
John has published over 300 papers, which have been cited over 32,000 times (Scopus). Inter alia, he has been Chair of the Queensland Studies Authority and a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee. John was recently named by the NHMRC as the one of the all-time high achievers in Australian health and medical research.