The Genome Maintenance Research Program (GM) is a cohesive network of basic science researchers whose collective mission is to understand processes affecting the integrity, expression, and duplication of the genetic material. The pervasive involvement of DNA-based events in cancer onset, progression, and response to therapies triggered our comprehensive Cancer Center to build a strong basic science program that focuses on aspects of how DNA is damaged, repaired, packaged, expressed, and replicated.
GM meets this mandate via three broad Specific Aims:
- To foster interactions among GM members, providing them with a forum to exchange ideas and expertise, to build collaborations, and to identify emerging areas of connectivity between different facets of DNA biology.
- To educate GM members on basic, translational and clinical research activities occurring across the Cancer Center, in order to promote new and collaborative initiatives.
- To serve as a genome-centric resource for the Cancer Center, providing Cancer Center members with access to contemporary information on mechanisms, approaches, and technologies related to DNA and DNA-dependent reactions.
GM includes 26 faculty members representing over a dozen departments and centers across campus. Research interests of our members run the gamut from control of DNA replication and mitosis through to mechanisms of DNA damage, DNA damage response and repair, chromatin, epigenetics, and the regulation of gene activity. This vibrant group of researchers harbors expertise in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, genomics, model organisms, proteomics, and structural biology. Their specific research strengths, together with a common focus on the genome, creates a highly synergistic environment where both formal and informal collaborations thrive and bolster our research accomplishments and impact.
David Cortez, Ph.D., has been co-leader of this program since its inception in 2007, and is instrumental in defining the program and providing leadership continuity. As co-leader of GM, Dr. Cortez has been principally responsible for organizing the program’s activities, including monthly meetings, seminar series, and retreats.
Dr. Cortez is a Professor of Biochemistry and Ingram Professor for Cancer Research. Dr. Cortez was chosen as a co-leader of the GM program because of his research expertise and demonstrated leadership in genome maintenance at Vanderbilt. He has organized and led the DNA Repair, Replication and Damage Response interest group since 2005. This group’s monthly meetings continue as one of the GM programmatic activities. Dr. Cortez’s research focuses on the cellular responses to DNA damage. He is a leader in the field of DNA damage signaling by the ATM/ATR kinases, which regulate DNA repair, cell cycle transitions, DNA replication, and apoptosis. Dr. Cortez’s laboratory uses a variety of experimental systems, including yeast genetics, human cell culture, mass spectrometry, and structural biology; this places him in an ideal position to understand and integrate the various research activities in the GM program. Dr. Cortez also serves as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Biochemistry, has served as an ad hoc member of several study sections, including Molecular Genetics A, and serves on the editorial board of Journal of Biological Chemistry.
William Tansey, Ph.D., joined the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology (CDB) in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in June 2009. As described above, his recruitment was a joint effort between CDB and VICC, the latter of which provided much of the start-up package and provides Dr. Tansey with an Ingram Professorship of Cancer Biology. Dr. Tansey was actively recruited to the VICC with the express purposes of strengthening, and co-leading, the GM program, filling the co-leader role left open when Dr. Ruley decided to focus his efforts on research. Dr. Tansey's research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of regulation of Myc, an oncoprotein transcription factor that features prominently in human cancer. Dr. Tansey pioneered understanding of how Myc levels and activity are controlled by the ubiquitin–proteasome system, and how this process is deregulated in blood-borne cancers. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt faculty, Dr. Tansey was a Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York, where he had worked for 17 years. During his time at CSHL, Dr. Tansey gained significant administrative experience, and was Director of Graduate Studies for the Watson School of Biological Sciences, as well as Scientific Head of the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource within the CSHL Cancer Center. He is currently an Associate Editor for Molecular Biology of the Cell. Dr. Tansey has also served as an ad hoc member of NCI Program Project review panels, and was a permanent member—and chair—of the Molecular Genetics A Study Section.