Peter Koopman

2009 LEMBERG MEDALLIST: PETER KOOPMAN

Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Peter Koopman received a BSc(Hons) and BA from the University of Melbourne, and in 1986, obtained a PhD in stem cell biology at what is now the Murdoch Institute at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

He worked in London for six years as a postdoc at the Medical Research Council, with Dr Anne McLaren and Dr Robin Lovell-Badge. During this time, he investigated the molecular basis of mouse embryo development and is perhaps best known for his role in discovering the Y-chromosomal sex-determining gene Sry, widely acclaimed as a landmark in molecular genetics and resulting in a string of papers in the leading journal Nature.

Peter now leads a team of some 20 researchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at the University of Queensland. He has continued to focus on the molecular genetics of sexual development, sex reversal and intersex disorders, which are among the most common congenital disorders worldwide. He is recognised as one of the leaders in the field internationally, through invitations to speak at major international conferences and to contribute reviews for leading journals and monographs.

One of his most significant contributions is the discovery of Sox9, a pivotal regulator of skeletal development and also a critical sex-determining gene in all vertebrates. Sox9 is now the focus of intense international research and commercial development, with over 1000 papers published. Research on Sry and Sox9 has led Peter’s team to discover a number of other Sox genes that are significant as master transcriptional regulators of cell differentiation, and mutations of which underlie several human disorders. Last year, his group published in Nature the discovery that Sox18 is the master regulator of the development of the lymphatic system.

Peter is author of more than 160 papers, including five in Nature, seven in Nature Genetics, and others in Cell, Science and Genes and Development, which together have been cited over 7,000 times in the literature. He has given over 200 invited conference papers and seminars and is on the editorial board of six international journals.

Peter received the Julian Wells Medal in 1998, the ASBMB Amersham Pharmacia Biotech Award in 2002, the ANZSCBD President’s Medal in 2005, and the GSK Award for Research Excellence in 2007. He is Head of the Division of Molecular Genetics and Development at IMB, an ARC Federation Fellow, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.