Researcher

Associate Professor Janice Fullerton

My Expertise

human genetics, mental illness, bipolar disorder

Keywords

Field of Research (FoR)

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Biography

Dr Jan Fullerton is a Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA and a Conjoint Associate Professor at UNSW.

She completed her PhD in human genetics at The University of Melbourne in 2001. Dr Fullerton completed five years postdoctoral training at The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford (UK), where she developed her career interest in psychiatric genetics and complex trait analysis. Here she studied the genetic contributors...view more

Dr Jan Fullerton is a Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA and a Conjoint Associate Professor at UNSW.

She completed her PhD in human genetics at The University of Melbourne in 2001. Dr Fullerton completed five years postdoctoral training at The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford (UK), where she developed her career interest in psychiatric genetics and complex trait analysis. Here she studied the genetic contributors to personality, depression and anxiety in both humans and mice.

Dr Fullerton returned to Australia in 2006 on a NHMRC Howard Florey Fellowship, which allowed her to join NeuRA to study the genetics of major mental illnesses, with a particular focus on bipolar disorder. In 2013, Dr Fullerton was promoted to Group Leader at NeuRA, where she heads a number of projects in gene discovery using the latest genomics technologies, as well as projects examining the role of specific genes in risk of major psychiatric conditions.


My Grants

In the last 5 years FTE (2014-2020) I have secured $6.55m in research funding/awards as a CI, of which $2.3m was category 1 and $4.5m was as CIA.

2019-2020      UNSW Mindgardens Neuroscience Network Alliance “Bipolar 45 and Up Study: clinical course and long-term health outcomes of people with BD using electronic health record data” Budget: $300,000

2019                NSW Health Biospecimen Collection Grant. 45 and Up Bipolar Study (EOI submitted 31 August 2018, invited for full application which was submitted 9 Dec 2018). Budget: $100,000

2017                NSW Health Office of Health and Medical Research - Sydney Collaborative Genomics “Genetic contributors, clinical course and pharmacogenomics of Bipolar Disorder using data linkage in NSW” CIs: Fullerton, Mitchell, Schofield, Havard, Toma, Maryanne O’Donnell. AIs: Green. ($2,460,000)

2017                NAB Foundation “Stronger Minds” grant “Identification of mutant genes that contribute to bipolar disorder” CIs: A Cooper, JM Fullerton ($100,000)

2016                MLC Community Foundation "Whole Genome Sequencing of families with mental illness: 9 nuclear families with bipolar disorder". CI: A Cooper, Collaborator: JM Fullerton ($70,000)

2014-2017      NHMRC project grant APP1063960 “Unravelling the genetic causes of bipolar disorder: lessons from rare but highly penetrant variants in very heritable forms of illness” CIA: JM Fullerton, CIB: PR Schofield ($684,890)

2014-2017      NHMRC project grant APP1066177 “The biology of risk for bipolar disorder: genetic effects in a high-risk longitudinal study” CIA: JM Fullerton, CIB: R Lenroot, CIC: JI Nurnberger Jr ($833,835)

 


My Qualifications

Doctor of Philosophy (Medicine): The University of Melbourne: Australia

Honours Degree (First Class): The University of Melbourne: Australia

Bachelor of Science: The University of Melbourne: Australia


My Awards

2014                Dean’s Rising Star Award, UNSW: “Significant contribution to research”.

2013                UNSW Silver star award CIA: J Fullerton, CIB: PR Schofield

2012                UNSW Gold star award CIA: J Fullerton, CIB: PR Schofield, CIC: JA Donald, CID: PB Mitchell

2010                UNSW Gold star award CIA: J Fullerton, CIB: PR Schofield, CIC: JA Donald, CID: PB Mitchell

2007 - 2008    NARSAD Young Investigator Award awarded by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, New York, USA (US$60,000). CI: J Fullerton, Sponsor: PR Schofield

2007                Brain Sciences UNSW 2007 Symposium Post-doctoral “Best Poster Award” awarded to J Fullerton

2005 – 2007    Howard Florey Centenary Research Fellowship awarded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia. Grant #: 325643. CI: J Fullerton, Sponsor: PR Schofield


My Research Activities

My group is interested in identifying and characterising genes which increase risk to mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While these are clinically distinct disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia share a common genetic foundation, as well as overlapping constellations of symptoms. Understanding the genetic contributors to mental illness enable us to improve our understanding of the biological basis of these psychiatric conditions, identify similarities and differences across disorders, and ultimately improve treatment of psychiatric disorders through these discoveries. Identifying the specific genes which are impaired in mental illness also helps to demystify the functioning of the human brain, and to comprehend the orchestration of events which leads to development of a healthy or unhealthy brain.

Genetic and epigenetic contributors to bipolar disorder in a high risk cohort

The offspring of individuals with bipolar disorder are at increased risk of mental illness, but our tools to predict which of these genetically at-risk young people will eventually develop disorder are very imprecise. Longitudinal studies that ascertain at-risk participants and monitor them prospectively are an effective approach for identifying early clinical and biological markers of future illness. This study examines genomic risk load of genetic and epigenetic factors, early structural brain changes and clinical information to determine if we can use biological signatures to predict which individuals will ultimately transition to illness, and identify targets for intervention prior to onset of symptoms which lead to a clinical diagnosis.

Genetic contributors, clinical course and pharmacogenomics of Bipolar Disorder in a large population cohort

Bipolar Disorder is a severe and debilitating psychiatric condition, for which the clinical course is highly variable between individuals, and the specific genetic causes remain largely obscure. This landmark study aims to use linked administrative health record data and state-of-the-art genomics technologies to address four key knowledge gaps: 1) identification of genes and molecular pathways which increase risk of illness; 2) pharmacogenomics studies to identify genetic signatures which may predict responsiveness to commonly used medicinal treatments; 3) examination of the impact of rare disruptive genetic variants on disease severity; and 4) consideration of the genetic correlates of both the course and severity of illness, and relationships to general medical conditions which more commonly present in people with bipolar disorder (such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and asthma) and which further reduce quality of life and significantly impact overall health of people living with this condition.

Investigation of rare variants which increase risk to bipolar disorder in families with a high density of illness

Advances in technology have enabled sequencing at the level of the entire genome to become a reality. We have access to number of rare families with highly heritable forms of bipolar disorder, for which we will apply this powerful technology to identify specific genetic factors which increase disease risk. We assess loss-of-function variation within genes, at both the level of single base mutations and variation in gene copy number, which track with illness in these families to identify new genes which contribute to illness.

International collaborative consortia involvement

We are active contributors to a number of large international collaborative studies, including the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), the Bipolar Sequencing Consortium (BSC), the Bipolar High Risk Consortium, and have contributed to a number of projects through the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) consortia. These efforts aim to identify risk genes which contribute to disease, and examine their effect on brain structure, function and disease.    


My Research Supervision


Supervision keywords


Areas of supervision

ILP, Honours, Masters, PhD.


Currently supervising

Sonia Hesam Shariati

Javad Jamshidi

Oliver Watkeys

Hayley North

Jessica Chandra


My Teaching

Seeking ILP students and clinicians for short-term research training project on the "Genetic contributors, clinical course and pharmacogenomics of Bipolar Disorder in a large population cohort" project, supported by the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network initiative.

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Location

Neuroscience Research Australia

Contact

02 9399 1836
02 9399 1005

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