Research at the CSSB is focused on the integration of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics data—offering a more unified view of organisms as integrated networks. Such systems-wide, interdisciplinary approaches allow us to better define the functions of genes, and to accelerate the discovery of new pathways that are critical for various traits and diseases. Selected projects include:
Diagnostics for Developing Markets. In collaboration with the Gates Foundation and DARPA, The Ellington lab is working towards the development of paperfluidic devices (akin to pregnancy test strips) that can be used for the identification of drugresistant tuberculosis and other diseases. The notion that we can bring better healthcare to underserved areas via such devices is bolstered by the fact that the results of simple diagnostics can be easily uploaded via cell phone technologies. This is overall part of a democratization of healthcare platforms that will be transformative for developed economies, as well.
Discovering New Disease Genes, Pathways, and Drugs. The Marcotte lab is developing novel computational approaches to mine the evolutionary relationships between genes. These methods have been used to predict surprising relationships between genes and human disease, including:
- Yeast genes relevant for blood vessel formation in humans
- Plant genes involved in human birth defects
- Worm genes relevant to breast cancer
- Mouse genes relevant to autism
These linkages are now being confirmed experimentally, and the results are uncovering both new disease pathways and drugs that target them. These drugs are now being explored as potential therapeutics for some of the deadliest forms of cancer.
HIV/AIDS: An Ongoing Global Pandemic. The Sawyer lab places special emphasis on HIV/AIDS research. Two of their contributions to this field are already being translated to public health:
- Development of a synthetic gene that protects against HIV, which is now under therapeutic development for the treatment of AIDS.
- Identification of new genes in the human genome that may help define disease progression. These genes are currently part of a large, ongoing HIV/AIDS association study being conducted using HIV/AIDS cohorts.
Emerging Disease. The Sawyer lab is also interested in understanding how viruses evolve to infect new species, particularly when that species is humans. We are currently focusing on influenza, arenaviruses, and Dengue. We are interested in the host genes that make certain species and individuals more prone to infection by these and other viruses.