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ZJU Alumnus Wins Australia's Prime Minister's Prize for Life Science

Editor: Date:2017-10-26 Hits:36


YANG Jian (right first) is one of the winners of 2017 Australia’s Prime Minister's Prize

   Professor YANG Jian, from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), was awarded the Prime Minister’s Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year—a prize in honor of Professor Frank Fenner AC, an Australian virologist who played a key role in the worldwide eradication of smallpox and also directed the effort to reduce the country’s rabbit population using the myxoma virus.

    Prof. YANG Jian, who received his degree in biological science from college of life sciences and a PhD statistical genetics from college of agriculture and biotechnology, Zhejiang University, was awarded for his pioneering work in helping to unravel the complexity of the human genome and solve the ‘missing heritability paradox’. His work enables researchers to determine the genetic factors behind complex diseases, opening the way to new drugs and better genomic risk prediction.

    Some aspects of the human genome are ‘simple’—red hair, Huntington’s disease, and haemophilia for example are determined by changes on one or a few genes. However, most inherited traits are far more complex and current gene analysis tools can only track down a small fraction of the DNA variants responsible for many inherited conditions.

    To understand the heritability of complex traits and diseases, the genomes of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, have to be analyzed. YANG is now creating the tools to enable these large analyses. Through his new statistical method, a large number of genetic variants across the genome are shown to contribute to obesity, cognitive ability, and schizophrenia. Thousands of geneticists around the world are already using his software.

    Today, YANG Jian’s work is at the interface of human disease genetics, statistical modeling and big data analysis. His work is highly innovative, and typically uses large human cohort studies to (simultaneously) do two things: develop state-of-the-art methods; and, make fundamental insights into genetic questions that have been troublesome for around a century.