MCB Professors Russell Vance and Matt Welch were among the 73 new ASM fellows. "Fellows of the American Academy of Microbiology, an honorific leadership group within the ASM, are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology."
Herr Lab advances protein expression profiling of circulating tumor cells using microfluidic western blotting
MCB Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Diana Bautista has been appointed to the "Class of 1943 Memorial Chair." The endowed chair is rotated among disciplines and departments at the discretion of the Chancellor.
When you have a day-old baby, a nurse or a phlebotomist performs a heel stick to take a few drops of blood from your infant and sends it off to a state lab for a battery of tests. Most of the time, you never hear about the results because your child is fortunate enough to not have a rare disease, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, or any of the dozens of conditions for which most states screen. You, as a parent, may not even remember hearing about newborn screening.
Newborn screening is mandatory in most states, including California, unless parents refuse for religious or other reasons. Screening is generally accepted because it is only performed for conditions where measures are available to save the baby’s life or mitigate the harms of such conditions, if found early enough—and where, without screening, the disease would not be clinically evident and so would likely not be recognized until too late. However, now that scientists have developed methods for sequencing the entire genome, what would happen if states began incorporating genome sequencing to find out more about baby’s health? How would that work? What should parents learn about their baby’s genome? What shouldn’t they?
Steven Brenner, a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, is part of a national consortium of researchers and doctors studying the ins and outs of potentially using genome sequencing for newborn health screenings and beyond.
Called NSIGHT, the consortium includes four NIH grants and spans multiple institutions, including 4 lead institutions:
- University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
- University of North Carolina School of Medicine
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital/ Boston Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine
- University of California San Diego Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine
The group published an overview of their current and future research in the journal Pediatrics last month. Their studies are working to address using genome sequencing in three clinical scenarios:
- Screening: to test healthy newborns for preventable or treatable conditions that genetic sequencing could detect or help confirm.
- Diagnostic: to find the specific genetic causes of congenital anomalies or unexplained illnesses in babies admitted to neonatal intensive care units.
- Predictive: to explore the entire genome of the child, as a resource for health care throughout the course of the child’s life.
In collaboration with researchers at UCSF and the California Department of Public Health, Brenner is a part of the group working on the screening scenario, with research in computational genomics. The group is creating the tools needed to analyze the genome for the dozens of metabolic disorders that are now a part of California’s newborn screening program. The state has archived residual dried blood spot samples from infants since 1982. The group focused on a subset of the archive—samples collected from approximately 4 million babies from 2005-2013—analyzing blood from the 1,500 babies in that group who had an inherited metabolic disorder identified by screening. At first it was not clear that enough intact DNA could be obtained from the tiny dried blood spots on the archived filter paper, but as Jennifer Puck of UCSF said, “It is remarkable that the sequence quality obtained from this material was equivalent to sequences from fresh blood samples.” Puck is co-principal investigator for the grant and leader of the UCSF DNA extraction laboratory.
From all this material and multiple DNA databases that serve as a reference tool, Brenner’s group aims to sort out the gene variants involved in the disorders and assess what roles they play. “The metabolic disorders are amongst the best understood genetic diseases, which makes them a promising set of disorders to explore with genomic sequencing,” said Brenner. “Our results are showing both unexpected limitations as well as potentially lifesaving applications of the genomic technology in screening.”
This NSIGHT consortium will work with parents and conduct genomic sequencing on newborns to develop evidence that may support guidelines for whether and how this new technology could be effectively and appropriately incorporated into newborn screening or the care of newborns.
In addition to the lead sites, NSIGHT includes researchers and administrators from the National Institutes of Health (the National Human Genome Research Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences); RTI International; University of California, Berkeley; American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics; Harvard Medical School; University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public Health; California Department of Public Health; Oregon Health & Sciences University; University of Washington; and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.
Image: Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 11:15Legacy: section header item: Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 11:15headline_position: Top Leftheadline_color_style: Normalheadline_width: Longcaption_color_style: Normalcaption_position: Bottom Left
Attendees at the signing ceremony at EBI. From left to right: Melanie Loots, Isaac Cann, Liesl Schindler, John Coates, Ajay Mehta, Paul Alivisatos, Yuri Sebregts. (UC Berkeley photos by Peg Skorpinski)
UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute has entered into a five-year research agreement with Shell International Exploration and Production to fund research that meets the growing demand for energy in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.
The agreement is to spend up to $25 million over five years on fundamental research in the areas of global energy transition and new energy technology. The agreement will make EBI a global leader in energy technology research to make next-generation fuels a competitive, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
“The Shell agreement brings the first of EBI’s new sponsors into the institute and adds a new dimension to the research focus incorporating research in material sciences, electrochemistry, and computational analysis,” said John Coates, director of the EBI and a Berkeley professor of microbiology.
EBI and Shell are now accepting proposals to initially pursue fundamental research in the areas of solar energy transformation, advanced energy storage and novel synthesis routes to create new products, and to leverage new capabilities in computational material science and biosciences and bioengineering.
The collaboration will also focus on creating new energy technology that will enable fuels derived from sustainable sources to be readily available alongside conventional fossil fuels in the market. EBI’s research focus to date has been on enabling feedstock availability — a goal shared with Shell, which currently holds 50 percent equity in Raízen, the world´s largest producer of one of the lowest-CO2 biofuels available today.
Image: Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 10:30byline: By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media relations Legacy: section header item: Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 10:30headline_position: Top Leftheadline_color_style: Normalheadline_width: Longcaption_color_style: Normalcaption_position: Bottom Left
An alumnus of the MCB Community returns -- Dr. Marion Nestle, (who received her PhD in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley in '68) will present the Weinstock lecture at the International House at 4:10pm on March 21, 2017. Join us for her lecture "Food Politics and the Twenty-First Century Food Movement."