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Dana Pe’er
Dana Pe’er

Sept. 20, 2007

Dana Pe’er:
Decoding Genetic Variations and Regulatory Networks

NIH New Innovator Dana Pe’er (pronounced pay-er) is looking forward to building her lab team and working on the next phase of her research, which seeks to illuminate how a cell's regulatory network processes signals, and how this signal processing goes wrong in cancer. As one of the world’s leading computational biologists, Pe’er develops highly sophisticated computational “machine learning” methods that analyze genomic data and detect patterns that underlie interactions and influences between molecules in a cell.

With the NIH award funding, Pe’er and her team will seek to understand the general underlying principles governing how cells process signals, how molecular networks compute, and how genetic variations alter cellular functioning. Specifically, she wants to understand how changes in DNA codes modify a cells response to its internal and external cues, which then leads to changes throughout the entire body.  These changes, or malfunctions, can cause anything from autoimmune disease to cancer.

“Cancer is a very individual disease—unique in how it develops in every person,” said Pe’er, who came to Columbia less than a year ago with her husband, Itsik Pe’er, also a computational biologist at the University. “Our research is aimed towards personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment. For each individual patient, we wish to detect the key mutations that cause cancer, understand how these combine to cause the malignant behavior and pinpoint where and how to target drug intervention, leading to better therapies and drug development. I’m hoping this will be my impact.”

– Written by Clare Oh.