After being a runner up in 2015 a major international project, led by Professor Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, has won a 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prize.
The 2016 Scopus Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration was awarded at a gala dinner in Sydney in recognition of the FANTOM5 project.
The project, which started in RIKEN Japan, involves researchers systematically examining the sets of genes used in most cell types of the human body.
Professor Forrest, who returned from Japan to head the Systems Biology and Genomics Laboratory at the Perkins, said the work being undertaken through FANTOM5 had extensive implications for medicine.
“Rather than traditional biology which focuses on one or two genes at a time, the ethos behind systems biology is to study all elements simultaneously to see how they work together,” Professor Forrest said.
“Humans have evolved into complex multicellular organisms made of hundreds of different specialised cell types.”
“Division of labour between these specialised cell types allows us to have more complex functions than simple single cell organisms, like being able to see, think, hear, fight infections and many other things we take for granted.”
“We are now using the data from FANTOM5 to identify genes involved in genetic diseases and to reprogram cells for regenerative and personalised medicine in the future.”
The Director of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Professor Peter Leedman said that the well-deserved prize recognised significant work, which would have long term benefits for health in the community.
“This prize exemplifies the way the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is attracting top researchers to our facilities here in Perth, Western Australia. We are proud to be reversing the brain drain,” he said.
“The work of Professor Forrest and the FANTOM5 project will make a real impact on medicine,” Professor Leedman said.
Professor Alistair Forrest is supported by a senior Cancer Research Trust fellowship.
The FANTOM projects, started by RIKEN Professor Yoshihide Hayashizaki, have generated many notable discoveries resulting from the investigation over the past 16 years, and Australian researchers have played key roles (46 Australian based and expat researchers have been involved). The project is a collaborative powerhouse, with more than 260 medical researchers and computational biologists from over 20 countries working together to understand how our genome encodes the various cell types that allow us to live healthy lives. For more information visit http://fantom.gsc.riken.jp/