Marcel Dinger

Head of School

Research Program

Professor Dinger’s research laboratory seeks to establish new links between phenotype and genotype, particularly between rare and complex disease and underexplored regions of the genome, such as pseudogenes, repetitive elements, and those folding into non-canonical DNA structures or are transcribed into noncoding RNAs. Harnessing the potential of population scale genomic datasets, and sophisticated data science methods, the laboratory aims to bring an objective perspective to better understand how the genome stores information and how it is transacted in biology.

Biography

Marcel Dinger is Professor and Head of School for Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW Sydney. He has more than 20 years experience in genomics as both an academic and entrepreneur. He has published 132 papers that have collectively been cited >19,000 times (Google Scholar h-index 52) and is (co)-founder of four startups in biotechnology and IT. He is a director on the board of Pryzm Health, a digital health enterprise focused on developed tools to enable precision healthcare at population-scale, a director on the governance board of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG), an ANU-based centre focused on using genomics to improve the health and well-being of Australia's First Peoples, and President of the Australasian Genomics Technologies Association (AGTA), the principal body for the promotion of genomics research and technologies in Australasia.

Prior to his role at UNSW, Marcel was the Founding Chief Executive Officer of Genome.One, one of the first companies in the world to provide clinical whole genome sequencing services, and inaugural Head of the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics (KCCG) at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research from 2012-2018. As CEO of Genome.One, he brought together his expertise in informatics, biology and business to manage and direct a world-class clinical genomics service. As Head of KCCG, Marcel led a translational research laboratory that aimed to realise the utility of genomic medicine in routine clinical practice and explore the clinical value of non-protein-coding regions of the genome. 

In 2011, Marcel headed the Cancer Transcriptomics laboratory at the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland. Marcel undertook his postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience where he studied the role of long noncoding RNAs in mammalian development and disease. During his postdoc, Marcel led a number of key studies demonstrating the dynamic and specific expression of long noncoding RNAs that prompted extensive functional studies of these transcripts that were commonly assumed to be “junk”.

Marcel has worked in informatics and genomics since 1998 in both commercial and academic capacities. As an entrepreneur in the early 2000s, Marcel established and grew three successful businesses; (i) a software company that produced DNA sequence analysis software, (ii) an information company that licensed databases to 10,000s of libraries and (iii) a web hosting company that became the fastest growing in New Zealand.

Marcel was awarded his PhD in 2003 from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. In 2016, he was admitted as a Fellow of the Faculty of Science of the Royal Society of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) by Research. He is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2019, Marcel was named in the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list from the Web of Science Group, which recognises scientists who have published a high number of papers that rank in the top 1% most-cited in their respective fields.

Highlighted publications

  1. Pinese M, Lacaze P, Rath EM, Stone A, Brion MJ, Ameur A, Nagpal S, Puttick C, Husson S, Degrave D, Cristina TN, Kahl VFS, Statham AL, Woods RL, McNeil JJ, Riaz M, Barr M, Nelson MR, Reid CM, Murray AM, Shah RC, Wolfe R, Atkins JR, Fitzsimmons C, Cairns HM, Green MJ, Carr VJ, Cowley MJ, Pickett HA, James PA, Powell JE, Kaplan W, Gibson G, Gyllensten U, Cairns MJ, McNamara M, Dinger ME*, Thomas DM* (2020). The Medical Genome Reference Bank contains whole genome and phenotype data of 2570 healthy elderly. Nature Communications 11:435.
  2. Cheetham SW*, Faulkner GJ, Dinger ME* (2019). Overcoming challenges and dogmas to understand the functions of pseudogenes. Nature Reviews Genetics Published online 17 December 2019.
  3. Zeraati M, Langley DB, Schofield P, Moye AL, Rouet R, Hughes WE, Bryan TM, Dinger ME*, Christ D* (2018). I-motif DNA structures are formed in the nuclei of human cells. Nature Chemistry 10:631-637.
  4. Gloss BS, Dinger ME (2018). Realising the significance of noncoding functionality in clinical genomics. Experimental & Molecular Medicine 50:97.
  5. Bartonicek N, Clark MB, Quek XC, Torpy J, Pritchard AL, Maag JL, Gloss BS, Crawford J, Taft RJ, Hayward NK, Montgomery GW, Mattick JS, Mercer TR, Dinger ME (2017). Intergenic disease-associated regions are abundant in novel transcripts. Genome Biology 18:241.
  6. Signal B, Gloss BS, Dinger ME*, Mercer TR* (2017). Machine learning annotation of human branchpoints. Bioinformatics 34:920-927.
  7. Gloss BS, Signal B, Cheetham SW, Gruhl F, Kaczorowski D, Perkins AC, Dinger ME (2017). High resolution temporal transcriptomics of mouse embryoid body development reveals complex expression dynamics of coding and noncoding loci. Scientific Reports 7:6731
  8. Zeraati M, Moye AL, Wong JW, Perera D, Cowley MJ, Christ DU, Bryan TM, Dinger ME (2017). Cancer-associated noncoding mutations affect RNA G-quadruplex-mediated regulation of gene expression. Scientific Reports 7:708.
  9. Signal B, Gloss BS, Dinger ME (2016). Computational approaches for functional prediction and characterisation of long noncoding RNAs. Trends in Genetics 32:620-37.
  10. Bartonicek N, Maag JLV, Dinger ME (2016). Long noncoding RNAs in cancer: mechanisms of action and technological advancements. Molecular Cancer 15:43.
  11. Thomson DW, Dinger ME (2016). Endogenous microRNA sponges: evidence and controversy. Nature Reviews Genetics 17: 272–283.
  12. Gloss BS, Dinger ME (2015). The specificity of long noncoding RNA expression. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1859:16-22.
  13. Clark MB, Mercer TR, Bussotti G, Leonardi T, Haynes KR, Crawford J, Lê Cao K, Brunck ME, Thomas GP, Taft RJ, Nielsen LK, Enright AJ, Mattick JS and Dinger ME (2015). Quantitative profiling of long noncoding RNAs with targeted RNA sequencing. Nature Methods 12:392-395.
  14. Mercer TR, Clark MB, Anderson S, Brunck ME, Crawford J, Taft RJ, Nielsen LK, Dinger ME*, Mattick JS* (2015). Genome-wide discovery of human splicing branchpoints. Genome Research 25:290-303.
  15. Quek XC, Thomson, DW, Maag, JL, Bartonicek N, Signal B, Clark MB, Gloss BS and Dinger ME (2015). lncRNAdb v2.0: expanding the reference database for functional long noncoding RNAs. Nucleic Acids Research 43:D168-D173
  16. Cheetham S, Gruhl F, Mattick JS, Dinger ME (2013). Long noncoding RNAs and the genetics of cancer. British Journal of Cancer 108: 2419-25.
  17. Clark MB, Johnston RL, Inostroza-Ponta M, Fox AH, Fortini E, Moscato P, Dinger ME*, Mattick JS* (2012). Genome-wide analysis of long noncoding RNA stability. Genome Research 22: 885-898.
  18. Mercer TR, Gerhardt DJ, Dinger ME, Crawford J, Trapnell C, Jeddeloh JA, Mattick JS, Rinn, JL (2012). Targeted RNA sequencing reveals the deep complexity of the human transcriptome. Nature Biotechnology 30: 99-104
  19. Dinger ME, Gascoigne DK, Mattick JS (2011). The evolution of multifunctional RNAs. Biochimie. 93: 2013-8.
  20. Khaitan D*, Dinger ME*, Mazar J, Crawford J, Smith MA, Mattick JS, Perera RJ (2011). The melanoma-upregulated long noncoding RNA SPRY4-IT1 modulates apoptosis and invasion. Cancer Research 71: 3852-3862.
  21. Askarian-Amiri ME, Crawford J, French JD, Smart CE, Smith MA, Clark MB, Ru K, Mercer TR, Thompson ER, Lakhani SR, Vargas AC, Campbell IG, Brown MA, Dinger ME*, Mattick JS* (2011). SNORD-host RNA Zfas1 is a regulator of mammary development and a potential marker for breast cancer. RNA 17: 878-891.
  22. Amaral PP, Clark MB, Gascoigne DK, Dinger ME*, Mattick JS* (2010). lncRNAdb: a reference database for long noncoding RNAs. Nucleic Acids Research 39: D146-151.
  23. Mercer TR*, Dinger ME*, Bracken CP, Kolle G, Szubert JM, Korbie DJ, Askarian-Amiri, ME, Gardiner BB, Goodall GJ, Grimmond SM, Mattick JS (2010). Regulated post-transcriptional RNA cleavage diversifies the eukaryotic transcriptome. Genome Research 20: 1639-1650.
  24. Mercer TR*, Dinger ME*, Mattick JS (2009). Long noncoding RNAs: insights into function. Nature Reviews Genetics 10: 155-159.
  25. Dinger ME, Pang KC, Mercer TR, Mattick JS (2008). Differentiating protein-coding and noncoding RNA: challenges and ambiguities. PLoS Computational Biology 4: e1000176.
  26. Dinger ME, Amaral PP, Mercer TR, Pang KC, Bruce SJ, Gardiner BB, Askarian-Amiri ME, Ru K, Soldà G, Simons C, Sunkin SM, Crowe ML, Grimmond SM, Perkins AC, Mattick JS (2008). Long noncoding RNAs in mouse embryonic stem cell pluripotency and differentiation. Genome Research 18: 1433-1445.
  27. Amaral PP, Dinger ME, Mercer TR, Mattick JS (2008). The eukaryotic genome as an RNA machine. Science 319: 1787-1789.
  28. Mercer TR*, Dinger ME*, Sunkin SM, Mehler MF, Mattick JS (2008). Specific expression of long noncoding RNAs in the adult mouse brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105: 716-721.

* Authors contributed equally

For a full list of publications, refer to Publons or Google Scholar.

Professional Experience

  • 2019-present Professor and Head of School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW Sydney
  • 2019-present President, Australasian Genomics Technologies Association
  • 2019-present Director, Governance Board of National Centre for Indigenous Genomics
  • 2018-present Director, Pryzm Health Pty Ltd
  • 2020-present Director, GenieUs Pty Ltd
  • 2016-2018 Chief Executive Officer, Genome.One
  • 2012-2018 Head, Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  • 2011-2012 Group Leader, Diamantina Institute, University of Queensland
  • 2009-2010 Senior Research Officer, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland
  • 2005-2008 Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Awards and Honours

  • 2019 - Highly Cited Researcher in the Cross-Field category, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics
  • 2016 - Fellow of the Faculty of Science (Research), Royal Society of Pathologists of Australasia
  • 2010 - NHMRC Career Development Award
  • 2009 - Queensland Government Smart Futures Fellowship
  • 2005 - Foundation of Research, Science and Technology New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1999 - University of Waikato PhD Scholarship
  • 1997 - University of Waikato Masters and Honours Awards

Education

  • 2016 - GAICD, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Australia
  • 2003 - PhD, Biochemistry, University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • 1998 - MSc (Hons I), Biochemistry, University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • 1996 - BSc, Biochemistry & Genetics, University of Waikato, New Zealand