John Mattick is Professor of Molecular Biology and ARC Federation Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. Professor Mattick’s research interest is in the role of noncoding RNA in the evolution and development of complex organisms. He has published over 150 scientific papers, including “The hidden genetic program of complex organisms” (Scientific American 291(4):60-67, 2004), “RNA regulation: a new genetics?” (Nature Reviews Genetics 5:316-323 2004), and “Non-coding RNA” (Human Molecular Genetics 15: R17-R29, 2006).
Professor Mattick has developed a new theory of the structure of genetic information in higher organisms, which may explain the purpose of so-called junk DNA in the human genome as a hidden information system that directs human development.
The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is one of Australia’s leading research institutions and a major center for molecular bioscience research. IMB links leading-edge genomic discovery and bioinformatic facilities with state-of-the-art research to better understand human and animal biology, and to develop new pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, nanotechnologies, and disease therapies.
In our wide-ranging September 2006 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY interview, Professor Mattick discussed the following:
- What mysteries have arisen from the sequencing of the human genome and those of other organisms?
- There are enormous numbers of noncoding RNAs expressed from the human genome. These represent a previously hidden layer of genetic output and likely control the trajectories of our development from the starting point of a single fertilized cell.
- What is the significance of these discoveries and ideas in relation to the diversity of species and human individuality?
- How and why will RNA-based therapies revolutionize medicine and the pharmaceutical industry?
- How do these ideas relate to our understanding of the evolution and function of the brain, and in particular its capacity to learn?