As the Director of UQ Genomics Initiative, it’s my aim to present a comprehensive view of UQ’s strong expertise in genomics research across a wide range of disciplines, and to further maximise our collaborative capabilities to foster connections with genomics professionals in Queensland, across Australia, and throughout the world.
To introduce myself to the UQ genomics community, I spent the past two weeks speaking to many of you at UQ with an interest in using genomic approaches to solve basic problems in the biological sciences, applications in medicine, agriculture, and environment. This was a busy, but fascinating time for me. I met with various UQ scientists discussing the use of cutting-edge genomic approaches achieving ground-break research outcomes - examples include full genome sequencing and analysis of complex traits in both plants and animals, as well as studies of medical interest in humans; technically challenging analysis of gene expression in single cells; and experimental tests of hypotheses using genome editing in model organisms, such as mouse and zebra fish modals. These experimental paths are critical for the basis of rare genetic disorders, just as one of the many international consortia UQ scientists play a significant role.
Genomics is not only about vertebrate genomes, it’s also about simpler but more numerous microbial communities; some are pathogens and cause diseases, but others are part of our lives, such as our gut microbiomes. UQ is playing a key role in both of these areas - the phylogenomics of bacterial outbreaks and the analysis of microbiome ecosystems. I had also met with scientists with an interest in using genomics in the study of ecosystems, such as the coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef that are affected so seriously by climate change and pollution. So, plenty of ideas for new research, new grant applications and the creation of new centres of excellence.
My vision for 2017 and beyond is to integrate genomics research in all disciplines throughout UQ to enhance the genome community that currently exists. Ensuring UQ scientists have access to all the facilities and resources they require to make a national and international impact in many fields of biology, where genomics can help to make a difference. This includes support from UQ in grants, legal and ethical issues, contact with external bodies and industry – again I was very impressed by all UQ staff providing support in all these areas. So, don’t wait for me to start in March 2017, contact me through the UQ Genomics Initiative anytime to discuss your plans, ideas and ambitions now.
Merry Christmas and a successful, exciting New Year to everyone at UQ!
About Professor Dave Burt
Professor Burt’s extensive background in genome research encompasses more than 35 years of work in the application of molecular genetics in diverse fields. He holds a PhD in Molecular Genetics from Leicester University and received 1st Class Honours in Molecular Biology at The University of Edinburgh
His research has been on a wide range of species (viruses, bacteria, birds, mammals, including humans) and research areas (renin-angiotensin system and hypertension, developmental biology of the chick, genetic and epigenetic control of seasonal biology of vertebrates, QTL mapping and avian genomics, including evolution of genomes, characterisation of transcripts and genes, mapping of regulatory regions). He has worked in the ICI-Joint Lab at Leicester University, Harvard Medical School (USA), and Clinical Research Centre (London). He was appointed Head of Avian Genomics Group in 1988, Director of ARK-Genomics Facility in 2000 and Director of the National Avian Research Facility in 2014.
He has obtained over $70m in competitive funding to support his research activities and has published over 277 articles, books and chapters (h-index 52) including in high impact journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Genetics, Current Biology and Genome Research.
Most recently, Professor Burt has been employed as the Chair of Comparative Genomics at the University of Edinburgh’s The Roslin Institute (birthplace of Dolly the sheep) and at Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. UQ genomics research has the potential for strong synergies with The Roslin Institute and we hope to develop this relationship over the coming years. To facilitate this Professor Burt will continue to work closely with The Roslin Institute in his new capacity at UQ and will hold an honorary Chair in Comparative Genomics at Edinburgh University.
Professor Burt is eagerly planning his move to Brisbane and we look forward to welcoming him when he commences in March 2017.