25 January 2006

Professor Brandon Wainwright has been named Acting Director of The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) following the resignation of Professor John Mattick.

Professor Wainwright was previously the Deputy Director (Research) and has been with the Institute since it was founded in 2000.

“It is a tribute to the vision and energy of Professor Mattick that the IMB has been established as a nationally and internationally prominent research Institute and I am looking forward to the challenges and rewards of running such an outstanding organisation, while still conducting my own research,” Professor Wainwright said.

He leads a team of scientists hoping to better understand the genetics of human disease.

A major breakthrough for the team was the discovery of patched, the gene responsible for both the inherited and sporadic forms of basal cell carcinoma of the skin.

Professor John Hancock, Head of the IMB's Division of Molecular Cell Biology, will replace Professor Wainwright as Deputy Director (Research).

Professor Hancock has also been with the IMB since the beginning, firstly as an associate before joining the Institute as a Group Leader in 2003.

He studies how signals are sent within mammalian cells, particularly via a group of proteins known as Ras.

These proteins play central roles in many cancers when they malfunction, and understanding their basic biology could eventually lead to anti-cancer treatments.

Professor John Mattick resigned as Director on December 30, 2005, in order to concentrate on his research, for which he was recently awarded a prestigious Federation Fellowship by the Australian Research Council.

He founded the Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology (CMCB) at The University of Queensland in 1988, and the Australian Genome Research Facility in 1996.

The CMCB later became incorporated into the IMB, which he co-founded in 2000 with Professor Peter Andrews, now Queensland Chief Scientist.

Just a few short years later, Professor Mattick has steered the IMB from being a fledgling institute to one with a world-class research reputation.

His efforts earned him the honour of being named an Officer in the Order of Australia.

“Some people may find it strange that I am resigning after 18 years as Director of CMCB and then IMB in order to return to full-time research, but I am a scientist at heart,” Professor Mattick said.

He and his team will now continue their research challenging the dogma of “junk DNA”, the 98.5 percent of our DNA that does not code for genes and until now has not been thought to do anything.

Professor Mattick believes that it actually constitutes a hidden regulatory system that would explain why humans are much more complex than organisms such as worms, which have almost as many genes.

“I will relish the extra time I have to spend on science and its grand challenges, and also with my family,” he said.

“The Institute is in good shape and I feel fully confident about leaving it in the hands of Professor Wainwright.”

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