Prof. David James
The University of Sydney
Systems and synthetic biology
Friday 7 July 2017
Prof. James currently holds the Leonard P. Ullmann Chair in Molecular Systems Biology and he is the Domain Leader for Biology at the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney. Prof. James has made major contributions to our understanding of insulin action. In the late 1980s he published a series of journal articles in Nature describing the identification and characterization of the insulin responsive glucose transporter GLUT4. Prof. James then focused his efforts on unveiling the cellular and molecular control of insulin-stimulated glucose transport. He has also made contributions in the area of SNARE proteins, signal transduction and more recently in systems biology. He has won several awards including the Glaxo Wellcome Medal for Medical Research and the Kellion medal for outstanding contributions to Diabetes research. In 2007 he was elected as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and was awarded the NSW Premier Prize in Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences in 2016. He is on the editorial board of a number of prestigious journals and he is regularly invited to speak at key international meetings on diabetes and metabolism.
Complex diseases are due to an interplay between multiple parameters such as the genome, the transcriptome, the proteome and the environment. To begin to understand this, requires advances in accurate data acquisition, better ways of integrating data from different labs/centres and across different omic platforms and advances in data analysis and visualization. Here I will describe two examples arising from work conducted in our lab that highlight the need for advances in these areas. The first and most challenging is in studying the gene-environment interaction. Here studies are underway involving different genetic strains of flies, mice and humans to establish that there is clearly a diverse interaction between genes and the environment followed by a mechanistic explanation for this interaction. The second involves our studies of the biochemistry of exercise. Exercise is one of the most potent therapeutics for a number of complex diseases and there is considerable interest in mapping pathways triggered by exercise that encode the health benefits. We have used quantitative mass spectrometry to measure >1,000 changes in protein phosphorylation in response to one bout of exercise in humans. This data set provides a biochemical map with which to deconvolute the protein kinase network that is triggered by exercise to coordinate a series of changes that ultimately lead to improved health.