"Genomics brings new insights to neurodegenerative disease."
I joined Genentech in 2011 and led the development of software infrastructure which continues to underlie much of our company’s gene expression research. In 2014 I began collaborating with the Neuroscience department to study the role of non-neuronal cells (“glia”) in neurodegenerative diseases, with a particular emphasis on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. We combine human genetics, gene expression and other types of data to identify and understand novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers.
At Genentech I have access to both industry-leading databases and information systems as well as world-class neuroscientists with whom I collaborate to develop and test hypotheses emerging from these data. This highly collaborative research environment is an exciting place to do science.
Human genetics and neuropathology point to a role for glial cells in the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia in particular are thought to have both “good” aspects, such phagocytosis of lipids, protein aggregates and apoptotic cells, and “bad” aspects, such as secretion of toxic inflammatory factors, actively spreading prion-like protein species, or aberrant engulfment of not-yet-dead synapses or neurons. I combine human genetics and gene expression to understand which of these pathways are most important for disease progression, and which might be amenable to therapeutic intervention.