Strategies and outcomes

Strategies for integration of discovery

As a department with diverse interests and approaches, GCD enhances scientific discovery by developing the diversity of expertise into collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches, that provides innovative solutions to important biological questions. 

1) We envision the integration of methods and ideas across disciplines. A strong genetic program provides characterization of genetic diversity and the flow of information, as well as the ability to manipulate that flow of information. Such research is integrated toward programmatic themes in developmental biology and disease states through the use of model systems, and identification of structural dynamics with innovative technologies in high resolution imaging and characterization of cellular processes such as intracellular trafficking.

2) We envision collaborative projects that assemble people to achieve integration.  Our laboratories already form the foundation for multi-investigator, interdisciplinary research programs in the Center for Genome Engineering, the Masonic Cancer Center, the Developmental Biology Center, the Institute of Human Genetics, and numerous inter- and intra-departmental collaborative program projects. Moreover, many of our faculty have entered new areas of science as a result of the collaborative opportunities. As a result, GCD provides both a productive research and training environment for students, as well as for innovative discoveries in the basic sciences that underlie translational applications. We continue to build on this approach, because effective collaborations are leading to more effective health care delivery.

3) We envision the use of powerful model systems to address fundamental biological discoveries. Our research efforts in single cell organisms, flies, worms, fish, mice and humans provide unique opportunities to understand the genetic flow of information, the structural components of cellular dynamics, and the cellular programs leading to normal and abnormal development. Indeed, our discoveries in model systems lead to translational applications in human disease. Importantly, through the interaction of researchers, genetic counselors, and clinicians, we are active participants in the full spectrum of research - from modeling to application.

Examples of integrative strategies leading to innovative discoveries

Numerous examples of interdisciplinary approaches are being developed in GCD, but the following examples exemplify the concept and impact:

1) Through novel genetic engineering, fluorescent cell imaging, and applications to developmental processes, the faculty within the Center for Genome Engineering and the Developmental Biology Center (Voytas, Largaespada, McIvor, Hackett) have pioneered the use of morpholinos and transposons, and identified important pathways in normal development and disease.

2)    After learning that defects in chromatin organizing proteins in flies are implicated in cancer, faculty members (Simon) are collaborating to characterize their importance in malignant transformation.

3) Upon identifying spectrin mutations as a cause of ataxia in humans (Ranum), collaborative studies are in progress (Hays) to understand the functional consequence on axonal transport.

4) Mathematical modeling (Othmer) has provided important description of cell fate and patterning (O’Connor) during development.

5) Faculty interested in sexual development in worms (Zarkower, Bardwell) have collaborated with other faculty to identify genes involved in sexual development in mice (Largaespada) and humans (Hirsch).

Strategic development and hiring

In order to fulfill the University mission for national leadership, a vision toward interdisciplinary approaches will be required. We are developing incentives for interactive collaborations, hiring research faculty to core strengths that provide needed technologies and approaches that facilitate discovery. Key areas of GCD targeted development include: functional genomic screening, computational modeling, cellular dynamics and protein interactions, high resolution imaging of biomolecules, and applications of nanotechnologies to our biological model systems.


The implementation of our vision is resulting in improving core GCD strengths and interactions, increasing funding opportunities, increasing national visibility and ranking, improving educational opportunities, and encouraging application and translation of the fundamental biological discoveries. From this vision, GCD strives to be a national leader in:

  • Genomic profiling and genetic manipulations in model systems and populations to understand normal development and disease states
  • Translating discovery in genomics to application in diagnosis and/or treatment (eg. linking genetic counseling with clinical delivery)
  • Biological models for application of nanotechnology
  • High resolution imaging of cellular processes and trafficking
  • Computational applications to cellular dynamics and morphogenesis