Esteban Burchard, MD
Professor of Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences and of Medicine
Director, Center for Genes, Environments & Health
Graduate Program Membership: BMS, PSPG
The Burchard Lab studies asthma and therapeutic response in racial and ethnically diverse populations, and the variation in asthma risk among populations. By studying several populations at once we can identify those risk factors that are common to all groups while also identifying those risk factors that are specific to one racial group. In addition, the rich and mixed ancestry of worldwide populations can be leveraged to untangle complex gene-environment (G x E) interactions in disease susceptibility and drug response.
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, iPQB, PSPG
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.
Sharon Chung, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
The central goal of Dr. Chung’s research program is to discover genetic and epigenetic factors that influence autoimmune disease susceptibility and its manifestations, in order to identify biologic pathways involved in disease pathogenesis and potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Current projects focused on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) include genome-wide association studies, more focused investigations of the major histocompatilibity complex, and DNA methylation studies of specific disease manifestations. Her clinical interest is systemic vasculitis, and she directs the UCSF Vasculitis Clinic. Her research activities in vasculitis include genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptional studies of small vessel vasculitides.
Lindsey Criswell, MD, MPH, DSc
Vice Chancellor, Research
Chief, Division of Rheumatology
Professor, Departments of Medicine & Orofacial Sciences
Jean S. Engleman Distinguished Professor in Rheumatology
Graduate Program Membership: BMS
Dr. Criswell’s research program is the genetics and epidemiology of human autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Through genome wide association studies, they have contributed to the identification of over 30 risk genes, highlighting key biologic pathways responsible for disease onset and progression. Her lab is also devoting substantial effort to refining genotype-phenotype associations, such as the specificity of genetic associations for serologic or clinical subphenotypes, and to studies designed to better understand ethnic differences in disease risk and outcome. Lastly, they have initiated several epigenetic studies that focus on DNA methylation.
Laura Fejerman, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
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.
Elena Flowers, PhD
School of Nursing
Dr. Flowers’ research focuses on precision medicine and risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Specifically, she is studying the utility of epigenetic biomarkers for risk detection and prediction of response to risk-reduction interventions. Current studies include investigation of microRNA expression in individuals who are insulin resistant, and prediction of responses to both pharmacologic and behavioral interventions.
Tom Hoffmann, PhD
Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Graduate Program Membership: ETS
Dr. Hoffmann is interested in statistical design and analysis methods for the genetical basis of a wide variety of human diseases. He has been involved in a number of projects to identify and characterize the genetic basis of common diseases, including the Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health. He helped design and analyze the genotyping arrays used in that project, and has focused on analysis of cardiovascular outcomes including hyperlipidemia and hypertension, and has developing interest in age-related hearing loss. He has also developed new methods for analysis of NGS data.
Jill Hollenbach, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor of Neurology
Graduate Program Membership: BMI
Dr. Hollenbach’s research focuses on analysis of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) immunogenetic systems. Beside their critical role in transplantation, over 100 infectious, autoimmune, cancer and pharmacological diseases are associated with variation of HLA and KIR. Her work spans the population genetics, evolution, and influence on health of these genes, with emphasis on their role in neurological disease. Her lab also develops software tools specifically designed for these data. Other projects include examination of alternative measures of self-reported ancestry with respect to genetics, and the relationship between patient-reported and clinician-defined disability in multiple sclerosis.
Helen Kim, PhD
Associate Professor of Anesthesia & Perioperative Care and of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Dr. Kim focuses on identifying genetic factors that predispose individuals to stroke and outcomes after stroke. Her group studies families or individuals affected with cerebrovascular malformations, including arteriovenous malformations, cerebral cavernous malformations, intracranial aneurysms, and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. Current genetic epidemiology projects use whole genome SNP and expression arrays, and next-gen sequencing to identify genetic variation associated with disease susceptibility or progression. The long-term objective is to improve patient outcomes by identifying gene targets for therapy and factors to facilitate risk stratification of patients most amenable for clinical intervention.
Wilson Liao, MD
Dr. Liao’s research group is engaged in identifying the genetic and environmental determinants of skin diseases, particularly psoriasis. His group has contributed to the identification of more than 20 psoriasis genes through genome-wide association studies and functional mapping. Dr. Liao is a dermatologist and co-directs the UCSF Psoriasis Center, where numerous translational research projects are ongoing. Current projects include the identification of additional novel psoriasis genes, analysis of skin transcriptome expression networks,and analyzing the role of diet and the microbiome in modulating psoriasis severity, systemic inflammation, and associated co-morbidities.
Neil Risch, PhD
Lamond Family Foundation Distinguished Professor in Human Genetics
Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Director, Institute for Human Genetics
Graduate Program Membership: BMI, BMS, ETS, PSPG
Dr. Risch focuses on the development and application of statistical methods to address problems in human population genetics and genetic epidemiology. This has involved numerous projects using linkage analysis and positional cloning to identify novel disease genes, such as the genes causing hemochromatosis and torsion dystonia, as well as methodology for dissection of genetically complex traits including autism, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis. He has also spearheaded the approach of genome-wide association studies, the recent mainstay of human genetic analysis, and developed with investigators at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research a large genetic epidemiology research cohort on aging.
Mark Seielstad, PhD
Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, and of Global Health Sciences
Graduate Program Membership: BMI, BMS
Dr. Seielstad’s research bridges epidemiology and population genetics. The main goal is to identify human genetic variation altering the risk of complex diseases involving immunity (e.g., autoimmunity and susceptibility to infectious diseases) and metabolism (e.g., type 2 diabetes). This puts an emphasis on technologies such as SNP genotyping, and next-generation sequencing to reveal and characterize polymorphisms in genome-scale data. Much of this work is carried out in geographically diverse human populations, which are also the subject of anthropological investigations that seek to characterize the global distribution of genetic variation.
Lauren A. Weiss, PhD
Staglin Family / IMHRO Associate Professor of Psychiatry • Weill Institute for Neurosciences
Graduate Program Membership: BMS, PSPG
Dr. Weiss studies genetic mechanisms behind autism and related disorders. She is tracing how genes interact with factors such as sex and environment and studying how rare genetic diseases can uncover gene-gene interaction. Current work also focused on generating stem cells from patients with known genetic risk factors. These cells can be turned into neurons and glia in order to study their growth, development, and function. Once cellular deficits are revealed, Dr. Weiss investigates how those deficits can be modified or corrected. Her goal is to improve understanding, prevention, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders.
Joseph Wiemels, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Graduate Program Membership: BMS
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
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
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
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.
Noah Zaitlen, PhD
Dr. Zaitlen develops statistical and computational tools to understand the genetic basis of phenotypes. He is especially interested in human disease, variation in drug/treatment response, and outcomes. Ongoing projects primarily focus on incorporating environmental context into medical genetics. These include developing novel techniques to partition the proportion of phenotype driven by genetic and environmental factors in world-wide populations (Nature versus Nurture), and improving the power to identify disease causing mutations by leveraging gene-expression, meta-genomic, and clinical data (e.g., smoking status, BMI, and age). His work aims to improve the understanding of disease and contribute to human health.
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.