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Molecular, Evolutionary and Stem Cell Biology

A differentiated chimpanzee cortical neurosphere from induced pluripotent stem cells. Photo by Andrew Field.

Our bioinformatics research generates an increasing number of very specific hypotheses about the evolution and function of human genes. Through wet-lab experiments, we explore and validate predictions generated from computational genomic research. For instance, we use embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to investigate neurodevelopment from a functional and evolutionary perspective. Research project areas include genome evolution, comparative genomics, alternative splicing, and functional genomics. Current focus areas:

  • Understanding very early neurodevelopment from an evolutionary perspective, including the role of NOTCH signalling and of non-protein-coding regions of the human genome in this and other aspects of vertebrate development. The lab uses in vitro differentiation of human and primate embryonic stem cells and mouse models to study these processes.
  • Developing computational analysis and cancer cell-line models to mimic specific tumor types, especially brain tumors, using extensive genome-wide analysis of transcription, genomic alterations, and epigenetic modifications of patient tumor samples.
  • Uncovering the effects of the multimillion year arms race between retrotransposons and KRAB zinc finger genes in primate genomes. We explore how this arms race shaped our genome.


National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NIH

The National Institute of Mental Health (NMH), NIH

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)