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Emeritus Professor Grant Morahan

UWA Medical School

"Don’t be dissuaded by the ‘experts’ who will block your work and say your ideas are wrong."

Grant Morahan received his doctorate from the University of Melbourne. After a postdoctoral period at Scripps Clinic, USA, he returned to Melbourne, leading a team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and working on the genetics of complex diseases particularly Type 1 diabetes. Since 2005, he has been the Inaugural Diabetes Research Professor at UWA and the Harry Perkins Institute. His research subjects have included antibody immunochemistry, immune tolerance, immunogenetics, and genetics of type 1 diabetes and other complex genetic diseases. Research highlights include developing “The Gene Mine”, the world’s most powerful resource for gene discovery; identifying IL12B as a susceptibility gene affecting diseases of immune dysregulation including severe childhood asthma and cerebral malaria; invention of the term ‘Systems Genetics’; and managing an international collaboration resulting in the discovery of 50 genes causing type 1 diabetes. Professor Morahan has over 260 scientific papers, including many in Nature, Science, Lancet, Nature Genetics, PNAS and Diabetes.

Most interesting aspect of my career

Being responsible for new insights in medical research and making scientific discoveries, many of which the experts said couldn’t be done.

Most important experiences at UWA

Representing Australian medical research at the international level, such as at committees of the US National Institutes of Health, and China’s Academy of Medical Sciences Institute.

Where did you think you would end up when you began your career?

My field changed from immunology and genetics of the immune system to the field of systems genetics, a term I coined twenty years ago to describe “the genetics of everything”.

What do you consider to be your most significant achievements?

Developing The Gene Mine, the world’s most powerful resource for gene discovery. This allowed identification of genes for traits as diverse as melanoma, bone density, and dementia. It was particularly satisfying as I had practically zero support. Also being invited by US NIH to the Steering Committee of Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium, identifying over 50 genes mediating type 1 diabetes.

Where to from here?

I will be trying to commercialise our technology that predicts people’s risk of adverse disease outcomes like death from cancer, developing diabetic complications, heart attack, stroke, etc. I will also continue as a Joint Professor at China’s premier medical University, advising on use of the Gene Mine resource.

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