Rosemary Akhurst, PhD

Professor of Anatomy
Cancer Research Institute and UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center
Graduate Program Membership: BMS, DSCB

Website | UCSF Faculty Profile

Rosemary Akhurst, PhD
Dr. Akhurst’s research is focused on mouse developmental and cancer genetics, and the translation of findings to study of human vascular diseases and cancer. Her group is characterizing genetic modifiers of TGFbeta signaling and how these genomic variants alter the outcome of disease processes. TGFbeta signaling is a central player in cancer, vascular, and stem cell biology, as well as cancer drug-resistance, thus these basic science questions provide critical insights into human disease mechanisms.

Allan Balmain, PhD, FRSE

Barbara Bass Bakar Endowed Chair in Cancer Genetics
Cancer Research Institute and Biochemistry and Biophysics
Graduate Program Membership:  BMSPSPG

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Allan Balmain, PhD, FRSE
Dr. Balmain’s laboratory uses crosses between highly genetically divergent strains of mice to explore the genetic basis of cancer susceptibility. His group has identified several of the somatic genetic events involved in initiation or progression of cancers induced by exposure to chemical mutagens or radiation. Recent emphasis is on computational approaches to the analysis of gene expression architecture in normal tissues and cancers from the same animals, as a route to unraveling the complex networks that underlie cancer susceptibility.

Sourav Bandyopadhyay, PhD

Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences
Graduate Program Membership:  BMIBMSDSCB, PSPG

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Sourav Bandyopadhyay, PhD
The Bandyopadhyay lab uses systems biology approaches to understand how cellular pathways are organized and reshaped in diseases. We are developing new high throughput protein-protein and genetic interaction mapping platforms and computational approaches for integrating experimental data with larger pictures of pathways and networks. The major focus of the lab is on developing networks maps to dissect components of oncogene addiction and to identify new precision therapies in cancer.

Atul Butte, MD, PhD

Director of Institute for Computational Health Sciences
Professor of Pediatrics
Executive Director for Clinical Informatics, University of California Health Sciences and Services
Graduate Program Membership:  BMI, iPQBPSPG

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Atul Butte, MD, PhD
Dr. Butte builds and applies tools that convert more than 400 trillion points of molecular, clinical, and epidemiological data — measured by researchers and clinicians over the past decade and now colloquially known as “big data” — into diagnostics, therapeutics, and new insights into disease. His lab has developed tools to analyze genomic data sets, and has used these tools to develop new uses for existing drugs, and new diagnostics. Dr. Butte was part of the team treating the first patient presenting with a whole genome. A major new focus is the analysis of clinical data from electronic health records.

James Cleaver, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Dermatology and of Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Graduate Program Membership:  BMS

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James Cleaver, PhD
Dr. Cleaver focuses on human DNA repair deficient hereditary diseases, especially xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) and Cockayne Syndrome (CS), which present increased solar-induced cancers, and developmental and neurological disorders. He is carrying out whole exome sequencing of non-melanoma skin cancers that occur with extremely high frequency in an inbred XP community in Central America. He is also characterizing redox dysregulation of CS cells and identifying mitochondrial and extracellular sources of oxidative DNA damage in fibroblasts and neurons. His laboratory is developing induced pluripotent stem cells from XP and CS fibroblasts to investigate mechanisms of neurodegeneration that may lead to therapeutic intervention.

Aaron Diaz, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Graduate Program Membership:  BMS

UCSF Faculty Profile

Aaron Diaz, PhD
Dr. Diaz studies the role of neurodevelopmental programs in malignant gliomas, using computational and systems approaches. By contrasting genetic and epigenetic signatures between the developing human cortex and human brain tumors, Dr. Diaz is elucidating developmental pathways that are aberrantly activated during oncogenesis, promoting tumor growth and self-renewal. The Diaz lab is currently using high-throughput, single-cell assays, coupled with modern techniques from machine learning and data science, to identify therapeutic targets within these critical pathways.

Laura Fejerman, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

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Laura Fejerman, PhD
Dr. Fejerman focuses on the discovery of genetic and non-genetic factors that contribute to breast cancer risk and prognosis in Latinas. Her past work established a relationship between genetic ancestry and breast cancer risk, where higher European ancestry in U.S. and Mexican Latinas was associated with an increased risk. Her subsequent research has built upon this observation, exploring genetic variants, through admixture mapping and genome-wide association approaches, as well as the possible environmental and lifestyle related factors, and ancestry-gene interactions. Recent work explores disparities in breast cancer prognosis by genetic ancestry in Latinas and its potential causes.

Yun-Fai Chris Lau, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Research Career Scientist, VA Medical Center, San Francisco

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Yun-Fai Chris Lau, PhD
Dr. Lau is interested in understanding the functions of the Y chromosome genes and their homologues in human development, physiology and disease. Recent efforts are focused on the gene regulatory hierarchy in mammalian sex determination and differentiation, the contrasting roles of a Y-located oncogene and its X-homologue tumor suppressor in human oncogenesis, and the contributions of the Y chromosome genes in sexual dimorphisms in human diseases, such as autism, Hirschsprung disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma with high male preference in the respective patient populations. Various advanced molecular genetic, genomic, proteomic, and transgenic mouse modeling strategies are utilized in these studies.

Robert Nussbaum, MD

Holly Smith Professor of Science and Medicine
Chief, Division of Genomic Medicine, Department of Medicine
Graduate Program Membership:  BMS

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Robert Nussbaum, MD
Dr. Nussbaum studies genetic contributions to developmental, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disorders. Two areas of concentration are Lowe syndrome and Parkinson disease. Dr. Nussbaum’s group identified the defective gene that causes Lowe syndrome and pioneered the delivery of genetic services and counseling, including carrier testing, to families of Lowe syndrome patients. In his Parkinson disease work, he identified a missense mutation and established the alpha-synuclein gene (SNCA) as a cause of hereditary, early onset Parkinson Disease. His group also focuses on mouse models, and has engineered several transgenic mice expressing mutant human alpha-synuclein that show a severe, rapid neurological deterioration.

Marina Sirota, PhD

Associate Professor, Institute for Computational Health Sciences

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Marina Sirota, PhD
Dr. Sirota is interested in developing computational methods in integrative biology and applying these approaches in the context of disease diagnostic and therapeutics. She has extensive background in bioinformatics and data integration in the context of drug repositioning, drug target identification, clinical and molecular data analysis. Dr. Sirota has a long standing interest in studying genetic architecture in complex disease as well as novel applications of next-generation sequencing techniques with a special focus on autoimmune disease.

Joseph Wiemels, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Graduate Program Membership:  BMS

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Joseph Wiemels, PhD
Dr. Wiemels studies the etiology and prevention of childhood leukemia and adult brain cancers. The work is grounded in human epidemiology studies and incorporates genetic, immunologic, and toxicological approaches. Current projects include a genome-wide association study of childhood leukemia comparing Hispanics to Non-Hispanic Whites, the former having a 30% higher risk of the disease. Another project considers the epigenetic patterning of normal pre-B cell differentiation, and genetic and environmental determinants of the aberrations in this process that lead to leukemia. Additional projects in glioma, meningioma, and pancreatic cancer focus on genetic and immunologic factors that enhance risk or impede survival.

John Wiencke, PhD

Professor of Neurological Surgery

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John Wiencke, PhD
Dr. Wiencke’s area of interest is in cytogenetics, radiation biology, and molecular epidemiology. His research has focused on biomarkers of exposure to chemical toxins and tobacco smoke and on genetic susceptibility to environmental exposures. He is the director of the laboratory providing support for epidemiological and clinical studies in neuroepidemiology. His laboratory is currently studying molecular subgroups of glioma and aberrant gene methylation, as well as genetic and environmental determinants of lung cancer.

John Witte, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and of Urology
Co-Leader, Program in Cancer Genetics, Helen Diller Cancer Center
Graduate Program Membership:  ETS, iPQB, PSPG

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John Witte, PhD
Dr. Witte’s research constitutes applied and methodologic genetic epidemiology, with the aim of deciphering the mechanisms underlying complex diseases. His applied work is primarily focused on prostate cancer, while much of his methodologic work is on association studies and hierarchical modeling. Dr. Witte initiated a series of prostate cancer genetic epidemiology studies, which have had numerous successes toward sorting out the genetic basis of this disease. In particular, using a combination of genome-wide scan, allelic imbalance, and association studies, Dr. Witte and colleagues have isolated distinct chromosomal regions that appear to harbor genes that cause prostate cancer.

Margaret Wrensch, PhD

Professor and Lewis Chair in Brain Tumor Research, Department of Neurological Surgery

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Margaret Wrensch, PhD
Dr. Wrensch investigates the genetic and molecular epidemiology of adult brain cancer as principal investigator of the ongoing population based case-control “Adult Glioma Study.”. She also co-leads a project within the UCSF Brain Tumor SPORE.. Her research group was among the first to establish risk loci for glioma and discovered a SNP that confers a six-fold increased risk for certain subtypes of glioma. She also has focused research efforts on the etiology of meningioma, and lung, breast and other cancers.

Elad Ziv, MD

Professor of Medicine
Graduate Program Membership:  BMSPSPG

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Elad Ziv, MD
Dr. Ziv’s research is focused on identifying genetic factors that underlie complex traits in humans. It combines principles from population genetics and epidemiology, particularly on diseases in populations of mixed ancestry such as African Americans and Latinos. His group is most interested in understanding susceptibility to cancer and response to cancer treatment. Current projects include identifying loci that influence breast cancer susceptibility among Latinas and identifying loci that influence mammographic breast density, a strong risk factor for breast cancer. They have also studied a variety of benign and malignant hematological conditions and study genetic factors that affect multiple myeloma.