John Mattick AO, FAA, FTSE – Australian molecular biologist internationally recognised for his blend of ahead-of-its-time genomic research with internationally recognized leadership of prime research institutes in Australia and around the world.
Professor Mattick’s research interests have been focused for the past two decades on the role of regulatory RNAs in the evolution and development of complex organisms. He developed the thesis that the majority of the genome of humans and other complex organisms, previously considered to be ‘junk’, is devoted to a vastly expanded regulatory architecture, which is mainly transacted via digital RNA signals and which contains the endogenous program that directs the epigenetic trajectories of differentiation and development.
He also discovered new classes of small RNAs, including tiny RNAs associated with transcription initiation and splice sites in animals. He showed that nucleosomes are not randomly positioned in chromatin, and demonstrated the juxtaposition of gene promoters and alternatively spliced exons, indicating that the genome is pre-organised, likely by RNA scaffolds. He also showed that 3’UTRs, which regulate mRNA translation and half-life, are also expressed separately and act as noncoding RNAs to regulate differentiation, an astounding observation whose biological raison d’être, like ultraconserved sequences, is yet to be explained.
Professor Mattick has published over 300 research articles and reviews, which have been cited over 37,000 times (Scopus, h-index 92; Google Scholar >53,000 citations, h-index 108). His work has received editorial coverage in Nature, Science, Scientific American, New Scientist and the New York Times, among others. He is frequently invited to deliver plenary lectures at international meetings.
In 2001 Professor Mattick was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for his services to molecular biology and genomics in Australia. In 2002 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (FRCPA), and in 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for services to biotechnology. In 2006 he was awarded the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science. In 2007 he was awarded the inaugural Gutenberg Professorship at the Université Louis Pasteur de Strasbourg, and elected as an Associate (Foreign) Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, an honour thus far accorded to only 176 individuals worldwide and only 9 Australians.
In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He was awarded the 2011 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Medal, the 2012 Human Genome Organisation Chen Medal for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Human Genetic & Genomic Research, the 2014 University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Bertner Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to Cancer Research, and the 2017 Lemberg Medal from the Australian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.