NHMRC Research Fellowship: Neurogenetics and Statistical Genomics (2015–2019)
Individual risk to common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disease and psychiatric disorders is both due to genetic and environmental factors. Understanding these factors, and how they combine to affect disease susceptibility, has been a major undertaking in medical research. Driven by new genomics technologies, discoveries over the last five years have shown hundreds to thousands of genes
contribute to variation of risk in the population, and that for a particular person it is the accumulation of multiple genetic and environmental risk factors that determines their disease susceptibility. For the next 5-10 years, the relentless drive of cheaper DNA technologies in combination with appropriate statistical methods provide an opportunity to pinpoint the genes and gene variants that contribute to disease, to understand how they work and interact with environmental exposures, and to make predictions of people at high risk or aid with disease diagnosis. This research fellowship proposal is about harnessing these opportunities, by (i) developing novel data analysis methods to identity causative gene mutations
and to predict disease risk and disease diagnosis, (ii) further capacity building in statistical genomics and (iii) expanding collaboration with Australian and overseas researchers, with a particular emphasis on China. Although the data analysis methods can be applied to any disease, the focus of my research will be on brain-related complex traits, in particular psychiatric disorders, cognitive ageing and motor neuron disease. The
conduit for this research is a newly created Centre for Neurogenetics and Statistical Genetics at the University of Queensland, for which I am the inaugural director.