Biomolecular science professor Alan Mackay-Sim has been named Australian of the Year.

The Griffith University professor has spent his life in the lab, recently developing a technique to harvest useful stem cells from the nose.

His nasal stem cell technology has been used to repair a profoundly damaged spinal cord.

Professor Mackay-Sim has served for a decade as director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research, championing the use of stem cells as a way to better understand disorders like schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.

“I'm so proud and shocked and horrified to be the 2017 Australian of the Year,” the normally private professor said in his acceptance speech.

“It's an unbelievable honour and in accepting it, I want to deeply thank and acknowledge all my friends and colleagues and students, the teams of people who have worked with me.

“Their late nights, their hard work, their great ideas have led me to stand here in front of you and I dedicate this to them,” Prof Mackay-Sim said.

It is a good time to have such an informed and passionate advocate take prominence, and gene-editing and stem cell ethics issues become more pertinent by the day.

The professor told reporters he is immensely excited the future of medical science.

“I started my university degree in 1970,” he said.

“In that time our understanding of neuroscience has multiplied 1000 times over. And with the technologies that are available, and with our application of all sorts of chemistries; all sorts of computing techniques, all sorts of machinery and instruments, technologies like the genome, the stem-cell technologies — these are all huge developments.”

“It’s an exciting time to be around and if we can afford the science I can definitely say can there’s a rosy future for humanity ahead.”