UQ is a world leader in Genetics and Genomics, with landmark discoveries in fields spanning human heritable disease, cancer, agriculture and biofuels manufacture. Our level of research infrastructure positions UQ as one of the largest and most sophisticated gene sequencing organisations in Australasia. We are placed at the forefront of gene discovery for a host of diseases including schizophrenia, arthritis, skeletal dysplasias, leukodystrophies and other rare childhood disorders.

Through UQ’s operation of the Australian node of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and the UQ Centre for Clinical Genomics (UQCCG), we contribute to worldwide efforts to define the genetic link to common tumour types, with a focus on pancreatic cancer and leukaemia, as well as common and rare heritable diseases. In agriculture, the understanding of genetic variants in plants is informing the development of new crops of greater quality and refining the manufacture of biofuels.

Our capacity in genomics is backed-up by internationally competitive research groups encompassing bioinformatics, transcriptomics, genetic models of disease and development, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and drug design and discovery. UQ’s expertise in genetics and genomics extends across five of our research-intensive Institutes and the largest UQ Faculty, Science. Our research is underpinned by state-of-the-art infrastructure supporting next-generation sequencing, microscopy and imaging, production of animal models, proteomics, nanotechnology and drug screening.

The impact and quality of the science, and the reputation of UQ researchers, in the field of Genetics and Genomics is demonstrated through their national and international partnerships across academic and government sectors, including links with the Beijing Genomics Institute, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Genetics and Genomics research at UQ impacts many facets of society from disease diagnosis, screening and the emerging promise of personalised medicine, through to improved plant performance and quality of targeted food crops, and the development of sustainable biofuels.

Research is diverse and occurs at:

  • Faculty of Science
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Queensland Brain Institute
  • UQ Diamantina Institute
  • Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of: 

  • Plant genomics/genetics of targeted food crops
  • Genomics, molecular evolution and evolution ecology
  • Psychiatric Genetics
  • Quantitative/Statistical Genetics
  • Cancer Genetics 
  • Gene discovery for illness and disease, development, repair and regeneration
  • Cell, mouse and zebrafish models of genetic disease
  • Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine
  • Epigenetics and regulatory RNA
  • Understanding the regulation of gene expression 

Genetics and Genomics research in brief

  • More than 45 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Cancer Studies, Clinical Sciences and Experimental Medicine, Agriculture and Food Sciences, and Biological Sciences.
  • More than 510 publications since 2008
  • More than $76 million in research funding since 2008
  • Genetics research rated above world standard in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise.

Highlights of UQ Genetics and Genomics research

University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Genomics 

UQ Diamantina Institute (UQDI) is home to the UQ Centre for Clinical Genomics, the largest genomics facility in Australasia and a partnership between UQDI, UQ Centre for Clinical Research and Queensland Brain Institute. The Centre is under the direction of the recently awarded Queensland Premier’s Fellow, Professor Matthew Brown, and undertakes cutting-edge genetics and genomics studies including whole genome or exome-sequencing to map monogenic diseases, gene-mapping in common diseases and RNA sequencing for genomic profiling.

Utilisation of this facility has allowed new genetic variants to be associated with the various diseases/conditions including skeletal disorders; cancers including leukaemia, lung cancer, and cervical cancer; arthritis, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease and schizophrenia; and hypertension, tuberculosis and osteoporosis. 

Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics 

The Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics, situated within the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), was enabled by the largest NHMRC grant issued in Australia ($27.5 million) to fund the Australian node of the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Senior UQ scientists lead a team from UQ and Sydney’s Garvan Institute defining key pathways and genes altered in cancer, including cancer of the pancreas, prostate, bowel, brain, ovary and breast. The ultimate aim is to provide a genetic signature for each individual to allow informed, personalised therapeutic interventions for cancer sufferers. 

The Complex Traits Genetic Group 

The Complex Traits Genetic Group (CTGG) is based at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and UQ Diamantina Institute, and is a world leader in the development and application of statistical analysis methods in human genetics and genomics. A team of five researchers from CTGG were finalists for the 2012 Eureka prize in the category Scientific Research. 

Australian Centre for Ecogenomics 

The Australian Centre for Ecogenomics is an Australian leader in this field, providing a focal point for sequence-based analysis of microbial communities. Ecogenomics is an integrated framework of approaches including high-throughput sequencing of DNA and RNA, mass spectrometry-based identification of peptides and small molecules, cell sorting, whole genome amplification methods, and cell imaging that provides a high-resolution spatial framework on which to overlay molecular data.

The centre has four key capabilities including community profiling (the application of next generation sequencing technologies to PCR-amplified conserved marker genes to profile microbial communities), metagenomics, single cell genomes, and metatranscriptomics.

Current projects explore microbial communities associated with the Great Barrier Reef, permafrost thaw, sugarcane roots, humans and termites. 

Genomics research improving sorghum production 

UQ researchers from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation are working with a global team to incorporate adaptive traits in cereal germplasm to increase productivity, profitability and potential growth of the sorghum, wheat and barley industries nationally and internationally.

Sorghum is Queensland’s largest cereal crop and is vital to the rural economies of northeastern Australia: it also feeds 500 million people worldwide and is a staple food in sub-Saharan Africa. Funded by a $4million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the sorghum crop improvement research team is improving the drought tolerance of sorghum and enhance breeding capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. Collaborators include: Beijing Genomics Institute; Queensland Government; gene discovery with Texas A&M and US Department of Agriculture; and training and capacity building with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.