Back to the future for father of biotechnology

He’s back in the lab, working to convert the rich supply of stem cells found in the nose into specialised products to repair nerve damage or replace nerve cells lost in disorders such as hearing loss, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Back to the future for father of biotechnology
John Shine, winner of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Credit: Bearcage Productions
But that’s just the latest phase in the full and distinguished life of the 2010 winner of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, molecular biologist Prof John Shine.

In 2011, he is stepping down after more than 20 years as executive director of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research which, under his guidance, has grown to a staff of more than 500, an annual budget of $50 million, and now boasts significant achievements in cancer, immunology, diabetes and obesity, osteoporosis and neuroscience.

John first came to prominence for having discovered, and given his name to, the Shine-Dalgarno RNA sequence which serves to signal the cellular protein factories—the ribosomes—where they should attach to start making proteins.

Along the way he contributed to cloning the first human genes and helped found the pioneering company California Biotechnology. “This was really the birth of modern biotechnology—using bacteria as protein factories—and we were creating the tool-kit that the industry needed.”

Back in Australia since 1990, John has acted as a mentor for biotechnology, serving on the boards of dozens of organisations. As chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council from 2003 to 2006 he spearheaded its transformation into a statutory body that is more effective in the way it awards research grants.

Photo: John Shine, winner of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
Credit: Bearcage Productions

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, John Shine,