Brian Morris (biologist)

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Brian James Morris (born 14 July 1950)[1] is a professor emeritus of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney, Australia.[2] His research has mainly been in the field of molecular biology and molecular genetics, with a particular interest in hypertension.[2] He is a long time circumcision advocate, having written a book on the subject[3] and maintains a website.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Brian Morris grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where he graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1972. He then completed his PhD at Monash University and the University of Melbourne in 1975.[1] From 1975–1978 he did postdoctoral research at the University of Missouri, and the University of California, San Francisco, first as a CJ Martin fellow, and then as an Advanced Fellow of the American Heart Association. He was then appointed as an academic at the University of Sydney in 1978, where he has been ever since.[4]


As an academic, Morris publicly promotes scientific research findings in his areas of expertise, including molecular biology, high blood pressure, longevity, and cervical cancer screening. He has patents awarded in the US, UK, Europe and Australia on use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology in detection of human papillomavirus (HPV) – the cause of over 99% of cervical cancers – and is currently trying to bring this to the market in conjunction with a self-sampling procedure for women, so they can avoid the ordeal of a Pap smear. Human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted.

Morris believes that there is "'overwhelming' evidence to support male circumcision," and that although he does not believe that all males should undergo the procedure, Morris feels it should be in the same category as immunization.[5] He has criticised the circumcision policy[6] of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which he says is "not evidence-based and should be retracted."[7] Morris has criticized anti-circumcision activists for what he says is the "cult-like devotion" they exhibit to their cause.[8] In turn some experts have criticized his position on circumcision.[9][10]

A major theme of his lifelong research has been the important blood pressure-regulating enzyme protein renin.[11] In the early 1980s, Morris was the first to clone the gene for human renin, as well as the first human kallikrein gene (showing that it was prostate-specific, relevant to prostate cancer screening, just as its closest relative PSA). He also cloned the first cardiac myosin heavy chain gene. He and his team were the first to elucidated the biosynthetic pathway of renin, as well as key molecular mechanisms in renin's transcriptional and posttranscriptional control. However, his first breakthrough, in the early 1970s, was the identification of the existence of an inactive precursor (pro) form of renin that could be activated by trypsin and pepsin. In 1988, Morris pioneered the field of the molecular genetics of hypertension, being the first to publish in this area, and has published extensively in this area ever since.[12] More recently his lab has identified various splicing factors and shown how they modulate alternative splicing. In 2011, he published a study regarding global gene expression changes in ageing cells and the effects of the putative longevity factor resveratrol, a stilbenoid found in red wine.[13]

In 2005, Morris appeared on several TV news programmes to suggest the introduction of a tax on junk food coupled with subsidies for healthy food to help combat the obesity epidemic.[14]

Awards and honours[edit]

He was awarded the Royal Society of New South Wales' Edgeworth David Medal in 1985 and in 1993 the University of Sydney awarded him a DSc. In 2003 he was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research. He won the Faculty of Medicine's Award for Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision in 2006, and The Scroll of Honour, a community service award for his public health advocacy, by Waverley Council on Australia Day in 2007. In 2010 he gave the Lewis K. Dahl Memorial lecture, an award sponsored by the Council for High Blood Pressure Research in association with the American Heart Association.[2][15][16]


  1. ^ a b c "About the Author – Professor Brian J. Morris". 
  2. ^ a b c "Profile:Professor Emeritus Brian J Morris". University of Sydney. 
  3. ^ Brian Morris (1999). In Favour of Circumcision. UNSW Press. ISBN 978-0-86840-537-7. 
  4. ^ "Professor Emeritus Brian Morris". University of Sydney. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Zadrozny, Brandy (2 April 2014). "New Study Says Benefits of Circumcision Outweigh Risks 100 to 1". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "The Royal Australasian College of Physicians policy statement on circumcision". 
  7. ^ Paper by Morris and others criticising the RACP's policy statement on infant male circumcision.
  8. ^ Collier, R. (28 November 2011). "Ugly, messy and nasty debate surrounds circumcision". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 184 (1): E25–E26. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-4017. PMC 3255195Freely accessible. PMID 22125336. 
  9. ^ In Favour of Circumcision reviewed by Basil Donovan, Director of the Sydney Sexual Health Centre and Clinical Professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney.
  10. ^ Does science support infant circumcision? A skeptical reply to Brian Morris
  11. ^ Metherell, Mark (31 October 2011). "Thriving under pressure: scientist unlocks mysteries of hypertension". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Morris, B. J. (10 January 2011). "Renin, Genes, and Beyond: 40 Years of Molecular Discoveries in the Hypertension Field". Hypertension. 57 (3): 538–548. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.166967. PMID 21220705. 
  13. ^ Markus, M. Andrea; Marques, Francine Z.; Morris, Brian J.; Tian, Bin (13 December 2011). "Resveratrol, by Modulating RNA Processing Factor Levels, Can Influence the Alternative Splicing of Pre-mRNAs". PLoS ONE. 6 (12): e28926. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028926. PMC 3236773Freely accessible. PMID 22174926. 
  14. ^ "Tax on junk food urged". Australian Business Intelligence. 17 March 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "Lewis K. Dahl Memorial Lecture". American Heart Association. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Morris, BJ (January 2011). "Renin, Genes, and Beyond: 40 Years of Molecular Discoveries in the Hypertension Field" (PDF). Hypertension. 57 (3): :538–548. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.166967. PMID 21220705. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 

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