2018 NSW Scientist of the Year

Laureate Professor Nicholas J. Talley AC MD PhD

The University of Newcastle

A distinguished researcher, educator, clinician and academic leader, Professor Nick Talley is an international authority in the field of neurogastroenterology.

Nick specialises in unexplained disorders affecting the nerves and muscles of the gut. Up to one-third of Australians are affected by gut disorders, which can cause chronic distressing symptoms such as pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, and are linked to fatigue, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, impaired quality of life and lost productivity.

Nick’s research career began with an investigation of the causes of dyspepsia, including identifying the role that the stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori plays in peptic ulcers and gastric cancers.

He has subsequently been at the forefront of research defining how gut disorders affect representative populations and has also produced seminal work on gut problems in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, Barrett's oesophagus, diabetes mellitus and obesity.

Nick is particularly renowned for his research on common, unexplained conditions, notably non-ulcer (functional) dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Previously considered to be functional disorders due to the lack of obvious gut pathology, he has turned this concept upside down.

It had been thought that there was no organic cause for functional dyspepsia, but Nick was the first to show that there is a subtle inflammatory process likely driving immune dysregulation, that in turn leads to gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms. These novel observations have been subsequently been confirmed globally. His group has identified a possible bacterial factor in dyspepsia and another in IBS (intestinal spirochaetes), and new genes linked to unexplained gut disorders.

A pioneer of large-scale clinical studies in gastrointestinal disease, Nick initiated and drove multiple studies that have provided a unique opportunity to assess novel risk factors and biomarkers in people with endoscopically confirmed diseases.

He has identified new biomarkers and disease models that have helped to shape the field. His work on new drugs and pharmacogenomics has also been landmark.

Nick is a leader in optimising clinical trial design, testing new treatment paradigms, synthesising evidence through meta-analyses, leading practice guideline development and identifying methodological flaws in meta-analyses.

He has transformed practice through his educational efforts. His award-winning textbook on the art of diagnosis, Clinical Examination (now in its eighth edition) is considered the authoritative text in the field and is used worldwide by medical students and specialists in training.

A Senior Staff Specialist at the John Hunter Hospital – a tertiary referral teaching hospital in Newcastle – Nick remains a practising consultant gastroenterologist.

As Pro Vice-Chancellor of Global Research, Nick maintains strong engagement with university leaders and experts in North America, Europe and Asia. He also holds the prestigious Adjunct Professorial appointment at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and continues to hold the academic rank of Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Mayo Clinic.

Nick ranks among the 400 most highly cited biomedical scientists in the world and, in 2017, was named Australia’s most cited academic by Google Scholar, with nearly 79,000 citations in the medical research literature (H index 132, Scopus 2018).

In 2018, Nick received the Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to medical research and education as an academic, author and administrator at the national and international level, and for his service to health and scientific associations.