Prospective students and colleagues
I currently have a number of projects that are suitable to PhD candidates and postdocs. I am looking for candidates with strong background in clinical epidemiology, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics to solve problems related to osteoporosis and its diseasome. If you are interested in joining my lab as a PhD student or a postdoc or a visiting scientist, please feel free to contact me via email...view more
Prospective students and colleagues
I currently have a number of projects that are suitable to PhD candidates and postdocs. I am looking for candidates with strong background in clinical epidemiology, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics to solve problems related to osteoporosis and its diseasome. If you are interested in joining my lab as a PhD student or a postdoc or a visiting scientist, please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a more detailed description of these projects.
I was a refugee from Vietnam and settled in Australia in 1982. My life and career have revolved mainly around the St Vincent's Hospital campus. Shortly after arriving in Australia, I worked as a kitchen hand at the St Vincent's Hospital, and in the mean time, pursued graduate studies in biostatistics and epidemiology in Macquarie and Sydney universities. In 1990, I was back to St Vincent's campus to work on the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study which was initiated by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Then, after a stint as an Associate Professor in the United States' WSU School of Medicine, in 2001 I again returned to the Garvan Institute to head the Epidemiology and Genetics of Osteoporosis Lab. In 2008, I was awarded a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, and in the same year, I was promoted to full Professor at the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the St Vincent’s Clinical School. I also hold appointments as a Professor of Predictive Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, and Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Australia. I hold two doctorates in science and medicine. I am the 33rd academic who was awarded the thesis-based D.Sc. degree by UNSW Sydney. I am a Fellow of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
My research work is primarily based at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research's Bone Biology Division. I pursue both epidemiological and genetic research, often combining the two, to address issues that are transformational, shaping policy and practice leading to better treatment and control of osteoporosis.
In plain language, I want to find out why people have osteoporosis, what causes bone fracture, and how to predict the risk of fracture for an individual. My research program is driven by the hypothesis that an individual's susceptibility to fracture is determined by reduced bone strength due to bone loss, and deteriorated bone structure, and that bone loss and bone structure are primarily determined by genetic factors. Thus, my research objectives are: (a) to identify etiological factors and genes that are associated with bone loss and bone structure; and (b) to develop predictive models based on etiological and genetic factors to predict an individual's risk of fracture and adverse outcomes, especially mortality following a fracture.
In recent years, with the ongoing developments of high throughput sequencing technologies and advancement of modern bioinformatics, my research interests focus on the use of new technologies to disover genetic variants relevant to bone phenotypes and bone loss, and then translate the findings into personalised risk assessment. Key research areas include genomewide sequencing studies of bone loss and bone fracture, and application of modern biostatistical methods to large clinical and genomic datasets. I am also interested in the dissection of the complex interrelationship between osteoporosis and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and cancer.
Publications and impact
I have published about 300 publications, including 245 original papers, 20 invited reviews, 27 commentaries, editorials and debates. The majority of publications have come from research that I have initiated and supervised, with the authorship shared among my PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, whom I have mentored over the years. Apart from osteoporosis which has been my primary research interest, I have also had collaborative publications in osteoarthritis, obesity and diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and infectious diseases.A significant number of my papers have been published in highest impact journals in the field, notably the J Bone Miner Res (41 papers) and J Clin Endocrinol Metab (22 papers). A number of key papers are published in more general journals, including BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Ann Int Med, New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Rev Endocrinol. Some papers are groundbreaking in the field, received applauded commentaries. Many of my papers have generated a great deal of interests from colleagues around the world. Overall, my publications have been cited >25,000 times by other authors (as at 12/12/2017). My careerwise h- index is 76, and my last five-year h-index is 60. In terms of citation, I am among the top 0.1% medical scientists internationally.
My team and I have uncovered and defined the effects of etiological factors, including genetic variants that contribute to fracture susceptibility, its adverse outcomes and mortality, and have translated this knowledge into predictive models for targeting treatment options. My work has helped shift the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of osteoporosis into a new and better paradigm. A highlight of my translational work is the development and implementation of the Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator (www.fractureriskcalculator.com) for individualising the risk of fracture. In recent years, my lab has created the world's first "osteogenomic profiling" from 62 genetic variants associated with bone density for predicting fracture risk.
I have served on the Publication Committee of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research (2008-2012). I am currently an associate editor of the J Bone Miner Res, PLoS ONE, PeerJ, and BMC Musculoskel Dis. I also serve on the editorial board of the JBMR, JCEM, JES, Osteoporosis International, Osteoporosis and Sarcopenia, JFES. I am an expert reviewer for more than 20 medical journals in the world, including BMJ, JAMA, Lancet, and MJA. I regularly review for NHMRC, WHO, Welcome Trust, and funding agencies in German, Hong Kong, Israel, and the Netherlands. I have been regularly called on to provide expert opinions on applications for professorship in USA-based and European universities.
I have supervised 10 PhD students who are now successful and independent researchers. Currently, I am supervising 3 PhD students. All of my students have published their work in high profile journals, and have won national and international prizes. Moreover, I have supervised many postdoc fellows, who are now successful researchers in their own countries. Through my former postdoc and students, I have been able to established an extensive network of collaborations which help to validate my work.
I have extensive research collaborations with colleagues from Europe (Norway, France, Sweden, the Netherlands), America (USA, Canada), and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand). I have also actively co-directed large scale studies in Thailand and Vietnam. My colleagues and I have completed phase I of a major osteoporotic study in Vietnam called Vietnam Osteoporotic Study (VOS) that involved more than 4000 individuals. The aim of VOS is to search for genetic variants and environmental factors that are associated with bone phenotypes. Moreover, I am collaborating with the Asian Consortium Genetic Study that involves populations from Korea, China, Japan, and Vietnam. I anticipate that these studies will serve as a major resource to complement my studies in Australia.
I have been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Khon Kaen University School of Medicine (Thailand), Hanoi Medical University (Vietnam), Ton Duc Thang University (Vietnam), and Tromso University (Norway). During the past 15 years, I have conducted more than 20 workshops in research methodology, scientific writing, epidemiology & biostatistics, and evidence based medicine in Thailand and Vietnam. My highly popular workshops have attracted and improved research capacity for thousands of doctors, health care professionals, and scientists. I have published 12 books in Vietnam, and have received a number of national awards and honors for my work in Vietnam. I have recently established a bone and muscle research laboratory at the Ton Duc Thang University, Vietnam. This lab is conducting large scale clinical and research projects that complement my work in Australia.
Current research projects
The long-term goal of my research is to advance understanding of the genomic and non-genomic risk factors for fracture, and to optimise the identification of individuals for appropriate intervention. My specific objectives are to discover novel osteoporosis genes, and to translate these newly identified genetic markers and environmental factors into prognostic models for assessing the risk of fracture and its consequences. I am currently pursuing the following specific projects:
Identification of genes associated with bone loss. In the elderly, age-related loss of bone density is a major determinant of fracture and mortality. However, loss of bone density is highly variable between individuals, such that some individuals can be considered "fast losers" while others do not experience bone loss. Based on my recent work, I hypothesize that bone loss is genetically determined, and that there are multiple genes involved in the regulation of variation in bone loss between individuals. I am interested in conducting whole genome analyses to identify genetic variants that are associated with bone loss.
Translation of genetic research into predictive models for fracture risk assessment. One of the most important questions in the genetics of osteoporosis is: how can genetic variants be used to provide a personalised risk assessment of fracture. It is now clear that the risk of fracture is determined by multiple genes, and that the magnitude of association between genetic variants and fracture risk is modest. The underlying hypothesis of this project is that a genetic profiling of multiple genes improves the accuracy of fracture risk prediction over and above that of clinical risk factors. Thus, a line of my research is to translate the discovery of genetic variants to predictive models for assessing the risk of fracture and mortality following a fracture. Development and validation of such models will significantly advance our understanding of the multi-dimensional consequences of osteoporosis in elderly men and women and help to ensure that new and emerging therapies for osteoporosis appropriately address real-life experience in this condition.
Diseasome. Individuals with osteoporosis are commonly found to have co-existing diseases, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, and neurological disorders. We hypothesize that osteoporosis and its multimorbidities share genes, proteins and pathways that stratify patients in subgroups and their tendency to co-occur together. The primary aims of the project are to (i) construct a network map of co-morbidities associated with osteoporosis; and (ii) determine shared risk factors, environments and genetics, for co-occurrence of diseases. This project makes use of advances in the new scientific disciplines of network medicine, "exposome", and genome. In this project, we want a network analysis approach to define the relationship between comorbidities, and then to develop a predictive model that uses comorbidities network to determine the risk of fracture for an individual.
Identification of etiological factors that explain the fracture-mortality relationship. At present, one of the most important questions in osteoporosis research is why individuals with a fracture tend to die prematurely. However, it is even more perplexing that some individuals with a fracture appear to do well in their remaining lifetime. The over-arching hypothesis of this project is that frailty is associated with a greater risk of osteoporotic fracture, and post-fracture health related problems, hospitalisation, and mortality. This project seeks to establish the longitudinal age-related changes from healthy, pre-frailty, to frailty status; to determine the association between frailty and post-fracture adverse outcomes; and to develop a predictive model for predicting the probability of frailty and post-fracture mortality based on a risk profile that is unique to an individual.
D.Sc (Medicine, UNSW Sydney)
Ph.D (Medicine, UNSW Sydney)
Fellow of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (2018).
UTS Chancellor's Medal for Exceptional Research (2018)
Professor Honoris Causa of Hanoi Univeristy of Pharmacy (2018)
Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Danang, Vietnam (2017)
Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ton Duc Thang University, Vietnam (2016)
Senior Research Fellow of the Australian National Health Medical Research Council (2008)
Award from the Foreign Minister of Vietnam for contribution to higher education and science in Vietnam.
Garvan's Best Thesis Award (1998). This is an annual award to the best PhD thesis submitted to the University of New South Wales
Excellence in research. University of New South Wales and St Vincent's 7th Research Symposium (1995, 1997)
Selected awards to research students under my supervision:
2018 The Christine and T Jack Martin Award from the IBMS-ANZBMS (International Bone and Mineral Society and Australian New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society (Thao Ho-Le)
2017 Sol Posen Research Paper Award, ANZBMS (Thao Ho-Le)
2017 ASBMR Young Investigator Award (Thao Ho-Le)
2017 UTS High Quality Publication Award (Thao Ho-Le)
2016 Amgen-ANZBMS Outstanding Abstract Award (Thao Ho-Le)
2010 Roger Mellick Young Investigator Award from ANZBMS (Shuman Yang)
2009 The Christine and T Jack Martin Award from the IBMS-ANZBMS (International Bone and Mineral Society and Australian New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society) (Bich Tran).
2009 Solander Award, UNSW Sydney (Bich Tran)
2008 The Harvey Carey Award from the UNSW Sydney (Bich Tran)
2008 Best Research Award, UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine (Steven Frost)
2007 Young Investigator from the ASBMR (American Society for Bone and Mineral Research) (Bich Tran)
2006 ASBMR Young Investigator (Nguyen D. Nguyen)
2006 European Calcified Tissue Society Young Investigator Award (Nguyen D. Nguyen)
2005 IBMS Young Investigator Award (Nguyen D. Nguyen)
2005 ANZBMS Outstanding Poster Award (Nguyen D. Nguyen)