About Matthew Farrer
Dr. Matt Farrer, is critically acclaimed for his work in the genetics and neuroscience of Parkinson’s disease. His inspiration to apply genetic analysis to complex neurologic disorders came from early work as a care assistant of patients and families with neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Farrer earned first degree in Biochemistry with a Doctoral degree in Molecular and Statistical Genetics from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, UK. He completed a Fellowship in Medical Genetics at the Kennedy-Galton Centre, UK, and in Neurogenetics at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Farrer became an Assistant Professor of Molecular Neuroscience in 2000, where he opened his first laboratory to predict and prevent Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Farrer became a tenured Professor in 2006, a Mayo Consultant and subsequently a Distinguished Mayo Investigator. In 2010, Dr. Farrer was awarded a Canada Excellence Research Chair to build the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics and Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He came a Professor of Medical Genetics. The Province of British Columbia subsequently awarded him the Don Rix Chair in Precision Medicine and his team had many notable accomplishments, including several new genes and mouse models for Parkinson’s disease. The team also implemented high-throughput sequencing in pediatric seizure disorders and neonatology in clinical service. The former was funded through the Medical Services Plan of British Columbia, and was a first for Canada.
In 2019, Dr. Farrer accepted an endowed chair at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases (thanks to a generous endowment from the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation). Dr. Matt Farrer also directs the UF Clinical Genomics Program. As such he currently has appointments and affiliations in the UF College of Medicine’s Neurology and Pathology Departments, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, the Center for Neurogenetic in addition to the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases.
My long term career objective has been to provide molecular targets, develop tools and characterize models to encourage greater pharmaceutical investment in disease-modifying therapeutics aimed at neuroprotection (‘precision medicine’). I have long had an interest in dementia, from my PhD dissertation was on ‘The genetics of age-associated cognitive dysfunction in Down syndrome’, including the role of APOE, to linkage analysis implicating increased alpha-synuclein gene dosage as the cause of Lewy body parkinsonism-dementia, to comparative high-throughput sequencing in families and populations to identify the genetic contribution to neurodegenerative trait components. I have used genetic insights to better understand genotype-phenotype correlations in man and in mouse models, with cre-loxP methods and brain slice biochemistry and physiology. In recent years I built and directed the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics and Translational Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, and founded Neurocode Labs Inc., the only company in Canada that is clinically-accredited in medical genetics to return results from whole exome sequencing, primarily in the context of pediatric seizure disorders. As part of both endeavors, integrating genetic information, bioinformatics and web-development, my team created NeuroSeq (www.neuroseq.ca), a genome browser to enable sharing and global collaboration between neurologists and academic researchers. This proposal is a community-based effort focused on brain health and neuroprotection that aims to understand what it will take to deliver genetic information to the public. We aim to lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, in an underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged sample from the population of Florida, in a meaningful and ethically-responsible fashion. It is a pilot application to improve population health, methodologically simplistic but nonetheless challenging in that it aims to modify individual behavior to lower the overall risk and incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.