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CCGS faculty member Alex Tropsha named Associate Dean for Research - UNC School of Pharmacy
June 1, 2011

School of Pharmacy News Release

Tropsha to Lead Research Efforts as Associate Dean, Lawrence to Chair Medicinal Chemistry DivisionAlexander Tropsha, PhD, has been named as the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s new associate dean for research charged with overseeing the School’s research and graduate education programs. David Lawrence, PhD, will replace Tropsha as the new chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products.
“I am thrilled that Alex has agreed to take on this new responsibility,” says Robert Blouin, PharmD, dean of the School. “He has made major contributions to the School over his two decades here and is internationally recognized for his research in cheminformatics. He has a knack for bringing together scientists with diverse research interests to address important scientific problems. This quality will serve the School very well as he takes on this new role.”
As associate dean, Tropsha will serve as the School’s chief research officer. He will create and execute strategies to increase support for the research enterprise, oversee the School’s research centers, and work to cultivate and expand partnerships with entities within the University and with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. He is assuming the post currently held by Rudy Juliano, PhD, who will be entering phased retirement on July 1. Tropsha and Juliano will work together during the month of June to assure a smooth transition, Blouin says.
Tropsha has been the chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products since 2005. He is succeeded by Lawrence who will serve as the division’s chief administrative and academic officer and focus on the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, mentoring of junior faculty, budget management, and the division’s contributions to the graduate and professional education programs.

Karen Mohlke Receives 2011 Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement
May 2011


CCGS Associate Professor Karen Mohlke has been awarded a 2011 Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement. This prestigious award is given annually to four young faculty members at UNC-Chapel Hill for excellence in research or other scholarly endeavors. Karen will receive recognition and a cash prize at the first Faculty Council meeting of the fall semester and will give a public lecture on her work later in the academic year.


UNC-led team clarifies the phylogeny and genetic diversity present in laboratory mice
May 29, 2011

LCCC News Release

Laboratory research has always been limited in terms of what conclusions scientists can safely extrapolate from animal experiments to the human population as a whole.  Many promising findings in mice have not held up under further experimentation, in part because laboratory animals, bred from a limited genetic foundation, don’t provide a good representation of how genetic diversity manifests in the broader human population.  Now, thanks to an in-depth analysis by a team led by Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, in the UNC Department of Genetics and Gary Churchill, PhD, at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, researchers will be able to use an online resource dubbed the Mouse Phylogeny Viewer to select from among 162 strains of laboratory mice for which the entire genome has been characterized.  Phylogeny refers to the connections among all groups of organisms as understood by ancestor/descendant relationships.  Pardo-Manuel de Villena is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. The results of the analysis that make this tool possible were published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.

“The viewer provides scientists with a visual tool where they can actually go and look at the genome of the mouse strains they are using or considering, compare the differences and similarities between strains and select the ones most likely to provide the basis for experimental results that can be more effectively extrapolated to the diverse human population,” said Pardo-Manuel de Villena. “As scientists use this resource to find ways to prevent and treat the genetic changes that cause cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments, the diversity of our lab experiments should be much easier to translate to humans,” he noted.

He explains that the DNA of a given pair of typical laboratory mouse strains varies in only half of their genome and captures less than 20 percent of the diversity of the entire mouse genome.  Historically, biomedical researchers have relied on what are called classical inbred strains of mice in laboratory research.  With the advance of genetic science, researchers began to use wild-derived laboratory strains (descendants of captured wild mice that originate from a small number of original ancestors) to try to overcome issues associated with limited genetic diversity.  However, scientists’ understanding of genetic diversity in mice has – until now – been limited and biased toward the most frequently used strains.

The team compared the genome of a large and diverse sample including 36 strains of wild-caught mice, 62 wild-derived laboratory strains and 100 classical strains obtained from different stocks and
different laboratories using the Mouse Diversity array – a technology that maps the entire mouse genome. Their analysis exponentially increases the data available to geneticists who work with mice, allowing them to statistically impute the whole mouse genome sequence with very high accuracy for hundreds of laboratory mouse strains – leading to much greater precision in the interpretation of existing biomedical data and optimal selection of strains in future experiments.

The Mouse Phylogeny Viewer is available at
Other team members include Leonard McMillan, PhD, two graduate students Jeremy Wang and Catherine Welsh from the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Computer Science; Timothy Bell, Ryan Buus and graduate student John Didion all from the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Genetics, UNC Lineberger and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences; Hyuna Yang, PhD, from The Jackson Laboratory; Francois Bonhomme, PhD, and Pierre Boursot, PhD, from the Universite Montpellier (France) ; Alex Yu, PhD, from the National Taiwan University; Michael Nachman, PhD , from the University of Arizona; Jaroslav Pialek, PhD, from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and Priscilla Tucker, PhD, from the University of Michigan.

ELSI issues of genomic research spotlighted at UNC- hosted 2011 ELSI Congress
April 12-14, 2011

Full NHGRI News Feature

Researchers confronted a plethora of plenaries,sessions, workshops and posters on the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research at Exploring the ELSI Universe, the 2011 ELSI Research Congress held April 12-14 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Throughout the meeting, 350 attendees chose from numerous concurrent sessions on topics as diverse as the genetics of antisocial behavior, indigenous people navigating ELSI issues in genomic research, or the relationship between tissue donors and biobanks. The Center for Genomics and Society at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill hosted the meeting, with support from other North Carolina institutions. This was the first ELSI Congress since 2008.

Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which funded the conference, kicked off the proceedings with a discussion of ELSI's role within NHGRI's newly released strategic plan.
"Many approaches should be pursued to support this research," said Dr. Green. For example, NHGRI currently has two grant opportunities focused on the ELSI implications of returning research results to study participants that might be informative in predicting their disease risk, he said.

The return of results issue reflects a major shift in how researchers see their obligations to research participants, in this case, to provide clinically relevant information, when in the past, this was not seen as something that researchers should do, according to Gail E. Henderson, Ph.D. , congress organizer and professor of social medicine in the school of medicine, and adjunct professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
"We are asking participants to contribute specimens and personal data to biorepositories and large databases like dbGaP (the federal database of Genotypes and Phenotypes), and this is changing what being in a research study really means," said Dr. Henderson. "In the past, people gave consent to a particular study that was described to them. Now, they are asked to join a biobank that may share their samples and data with many unknown researchers and unspecified research projects. It changes the meaning of informed consent and new policies are needed to address these changes.”

"The Congress took an interdisciplinary approach that includes ethics and philosophy, social sciences and legal research," said Henderson, noting that 107 institutions from 29 states attended the meeting. Many of the attendees were from NHGRI's Centers for Excellence in ELSI Research (CEERS), which require provision of "innovative, substantive training opportunities across appropriate disciplines" and efforts to develop and recruit ELSI investigators from underrepresented minority communities. While some participants have been in the ELSI world for decades, the meeting was also attended by an entire new generation of talented and deeply engaged young ELSI researchers to whom the "torch" will be passed, she said.

"This was a unique opportunity for colleagues to get together to talk to each other with a minimum of competitiveness," said Dr. Henderson. UNC's Center for Genomics and Society will issue a white paper, including descriptions of each session, in early summer.

Among the investigators from eight countries who attended the meeting were those advocating a global approach to ELSI issues, comparable to the scope of the Human Genome Project. Jane Kaye, D.Phil., director of the Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies at the University of Oxford, announced the publication of a new paper on a global vision for ELSI research (See: Developing a Global Vision for the Future of ELSI Research []. According to Dr. Kaye, falling sequencing costs are making affordable research that goes beyond the traditional large-scale centers and are expected to help address underrepresentation of diverse individuals in genomic studies.

Other meeting hosts included the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences; the UNC School of Medicine Department of Social Medicine; the UNC Center for Bioethics; the Wake Forest University Center for Bioethics, Health and Society; and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.

Jeff Dangl named fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
March 9,2011

Fellows are elected in recognition of excellence, originality and creativity in the microbiological sciences, and have built exemplary careers in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, industry or government service.

Dangl is the John N. Couch Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and member of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. Through his research into the immune systems of plants, he addresses the global problem of ensuring an adequate food supply. His work focusus on the study of plant-pathogen interactions using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system.

Next-Gen Sequencing Symposium Highlights CCGS research
May 4, 2011

On May 4, the CCGS sponsored a symposium focused on next generation sequencing technologies featuring the research of many CCGS faculty.  The day-long symposium on campus was attended by over 200 people from across the triangle as well as representatives from the major sequencing technology companies.  The goal of the symposium was to provide exposure to the diverse research and informatics efforts here at UNC and capitalize on the advances in technology, data analysis and pipeline development.  Brief presentations were provided by 20 faculty, postdocs and students to spark continued discussion and collaboration in this rapidly evolving area.  We thank all of the speakers and participants for making the day a success!  Next spring, the CCGS plans to host another similar event that may coincide with the opening of the new Genome Sciences Building.

Upcoming Seminars and Events:
We have 2 more slots available for the 2011-12 CCGS Seminar Series (October, and March).  If you have a suggestion for a dynamic speaker for the series, please send your speaker suggestions as soon as possible to

  • September 15-16, 2011

    3rd International Conference on Toxicogenomics Integrated with Environmental Sciences (TIES)
    Location:  The Friday Center, Chapel Hill, NC
    Conference website

  • September 16-18, 2011

    Curriculum in Genetics & Molecular Biology and Genetics Department Retreat
    Location:  Myrtle Beach

  • September 23, 2011

    CCGS Seminar
    Wing Wong, PhD
    Stanford University
    Host: Yufeng Liu
    Noon, G100 Bondurant

  • December 2, 2011

    CCGS Seminar
    Tim Hughes, PhD
    University of Toronto
    Host:  Jason Lieb
    Noon, G100 Bondurant

New and Notable Publications from CCGS Colleagues                            
(April 2011- May 2011):


  • Derek Chiang

    Suppression of lung adenocarcinoma progression by Nkx2-1. Winslow MM, Dayton TL, Verhaak RG, Kim-Kiselak C, Snyder EL, Feldser DM, Hubbard DD, DuPage MJ, Whittaker CA, Hoersch S, Yoon S, Crowley D, Bronson RT, Chiang DY, Meyerson M, Jacks T. Nature. 2011 May 5;473(7345):101-4. Epub 2011 Apr 6.

  • Leslie Lange and Bob Millikan

    Enhanced Statistical Tests for GWAS in Admixed Populations: Assessment using African Americans from CARe and a Breast Cancer Consortium. Pasaniuc B, Zaitlen N, Lettre G, Chen GK, Tandon A, Kao WH, Ruczinski I, Fornage M, Siscovick DS, Zhu X, Larkin E, Lange LA, Cupples LA, Yang Q, Akylbekova EL, Musani SK, Divers J, Mychaleckyj J, Li M, Papanicolaou GJ, Millikan RC, Ambrosone CB, John EM, Bernstein L, Zheng W, Hu JJ, Ziegler RG, Nyante SJ, Bandera EV, Ingles SA, Press MF, Chanock SJ, Deming SL, Rodriguez-Gil JL, Palmer CD, Buxbaum S, Ekunwe L, Hirschhorn JN, Henderson BE, Myers S, Haiman CA, Reich D, Patterson N, Wilson JG, Price AL. PLoS Genet. 2011 Apr;7(4):e1001371. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

  • Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena and Leonard McMillan

    Subspecific origin and haplotype diversity in the laboratory mouse. Yang H, Wang JR, Didion JP, Buus, RJ, Bell TA, Welsh CE, Bonhomme  F, Yu AH, Nachman  MW, Pialek J, Tucker P, Boursot P, McMillan  L, Churchill GA, Pardo Manuel de Villen P. Nat Genet. 2011 May 29 [Epub ahead of print]