Human Genetics Departmental News and Events

We are pleased to announce our 2021 and 2020 recipients of the DGSOM W.M. Keck Foundation Junior Faculty Awards.

 2020 DGSOM W.M. Keck Foundation Junior Faculty Award recipients

Due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, we postponed the announcement for 2020 recipients and would also like to congratulate last year’s awardees:

 Jingyi Jessica Li, PhD, Departments of Statistics, Biostatistics, Human Genetics and Computational Medicine, UCLA

Project title: Discovering fundamental mechanisms of translational control to advance mRNA therapeutics and other biomedical technologies

Messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics is an emerging approach for treating disease that involves engineering molecules to manipulate the abundance or presence in cells of specific proteins. mRNA therapeutics requires a means for precise control of the rates at which the engineered mRNAs are translated into proteins. Proposed research: to develop advanced mathematical models to better understand how mRNA sequences control protein production and exert translational control in a range of physiological states in multiple species.

LA Magazine highlighted a UCLA study finding which groups in California were most at risk for COVID-19 infection. Research was led by Marc Suchard, PhD, professor of biostatistics, biomathematics and human genetics at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

"ASHG Honors Kenneth Lange, PhD with the 2020 Arno Motulsky-Barton Childs Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education. The official news release is at;

Faculty News

Merel Bot

The department would like to acknowledge and show appreciation to Merel Bot who initiated the Gonda Emergency Support Network. She established a building-wide support network to help colleagues maintain critical research materials during 'safer at home' directive due to COVID-19. Merel works as a lab manager at the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics. She participates in research activities of Dr. Roel Ophoff's lab, which mainly focuses on the genetics of neuropsychiatric traits.

Paul Boutros, PhD

Nature Medicine published a paper on the genetics of prostate cancer. UCLA researchers discover the potential of DNA markers to predict prostate cancer growth.

Eran Halperin, PhD

KCBS-TV interviewed Eran Halperin, PhD, a UCLA professor of computational medicine, computer science, human genetics and anesthesiology, about the Stop Covid-19 Together web app. News article are also available in UCLA NewsroomNewswise and Medical Xpress.

Katherine Sheu

Graduate Student Researcher Katherine Sheu is co-first author of an interdisciplinary team of scientists that found small cell neuroendocrine cancers have common molecularsignature and share drug sensitivites with blood cancers.

Karen Reue, PhD

Congratulations to Dr. Karen Reue for being one of the recipients of the 2019 David Geffen School of Medicine Seed Grant Program award.  The program supports interdisciplinary teams of scientists and physicians to pilot innovative, high-impact biomedical research. 

The DGSOM Seed Grant Program selects awardees in any biomedical or medical research area who have an idea for a potentially groundbreaking advancement.  The grant provides seed funding to pilot their project so they can ultimately apply for grants from federal agencies and private foundations.  In its third year, the program is a collaboration among the unified research themes within the medical school, the Institute for Precision Health and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which together with a generous gift from the Spitzer Family Foundation, are co-funding all of the awards.  Dr. Karen Reue's award winning research theme is metabolism.

Sriram Sankararaman, PhD

Dr. Sriram Sankararaman has been awarded a two-year fellowship from Microsoft Research.  His work spans Computer Science, Human Genetics, and Computational Medicine.  Dr. Sankararaman will receive support for his work as a Microsoft Investigator Fellowship winner.  In his own words, “I want to use the human genome to answer fundamental questions about evolution and to understand how changes in the genome lead to disease.” 

Out of hundreds of applicants, Dr. Sankararaman is one of 15 to join Microsoft’s first cohort for this award.  

Julian Martinez, MD, PhD and Stanley Nelson, MD, PhD

KTTV-TV aired a "Good Day, LA" segment on a young boy with a mysterious disorder whom UCLA Health diagnosed using clinical exome sequencing.

Wayne Grody, MD, PhD

Neurology Today interviewed Dr. Wayne Grody to discuss the misconceptions patients have about results from direct-to-consumer tests (i.e., 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or FamilyTreeDNA) and how they address them in clinical practice.

Stanley Nelson, MD, PhD

Fox Sports profiles young boy fighting deadly disease. Dr. Stanley Nelson, co-director of the Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at UCLA, was featured in a Fox Sports segment about one of his young patients, who was made an honorary member of the USC Trojans football team.

Marc Suchard, MD, PhD

Dr. Marc Suchard is the lead-author of a manuscript on hypertension treatment, currently in press at The Lancet.  The study has a preventative cardiology slant as well as a new approach to massive scale research using electronic health information.  The work is a collaborative effort with colleagues at Columbia University and the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) community, where Dr. Suchard is a founding member.  Stay tuned for additional press release in preparation for the publication announcement!

Steve Horvath, PhD, ScD

Dr. Steve Horvath was selected as the 2019 winner of the Schober Award for outstanding and innovative research in the field of ageing awarded by the Martin-Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.  Dr. Horvath gave the keynote address at their September 2019 meeting on epigenetics.  Since 2003, the Schober Award is awarded every two years to renowned aging researchers.

Esteban Dell'Angelica, PhD

Dr. Esteban C. Dell'Angelica has been selected as the new Co-Chair of Block 3, joining Dr. Rashmi Mullur in delivering the Gastrointestinal, Endocrine and Reproductive Medicine Block of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) Curriculum Phase 1.  He will bring his experience in research and teaching to work collaboratively with Dr. Mullur in ensuring that DGSOM medical students will continue to receive a solid foundation in the physiology of the gastrointestinal, endocrine and reproductive systems that will prepare them to tackle these topics in subsequent blocks and eventually in their clinical years.

Jingyi Jessica Li, PhD

Dr. Jingyi Jessica Li received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the agency’s highest honor for faculty members at the start of their research and teaching careers, in 2019. The five-year grant will support her research and teaching activities in advancing the bioinformatic infrastructure and methodology for single-cell RNA sequencing. Details of the award is found here

Dr. Li directs the Junction of Statistics and Biology Lab. She has received numerous awards including the Hellman Fellowship, the PhRMA Foundation research starter grant, the Sloan Research Fellowship, and the inaugural Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Math Scholar Award. Prior to UCLA, she received her PhD from UC Berkeley. Dr. Li is Associate Professor in the UCLA Departments of Statistics, Human Genetics and Biomathematics.