Professor Jian Yang, from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Queensland Brain Institute, was the recipient of the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, in the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

His research focuses on tracking down the genetic basis for complex inherited traits, which are those traits that depend on changes to more than just one or two individual genes.

Supported by numerous ARC grants awarded under the ARC Discovery Projects scheme, Professor Yang and his colleagues have analysed the heritability of height, by looking at the genetic data of 3,925 unrelated, individual people.

The analysis showed that 45 per cent of height variance could be explained by considering all genetic markers simultaneously. Associations between these genetic markers were previously hidden within the ‘dark matter’ of the genome, escaping detection using traditional single-marker based methods.

These results open several new avenues for significant and varied exploration. Professor Yang and his team are now using this new deeper understanding of the human genome to combat complex diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Image: Professor Jian Yang. Image provided by Professor Yang.