- Beutler, Bruce Leader
The Department of Genetics at TSRI is dedicated to the use of classical genetic methods to elucidate questions in host defense, also referred to as innate immunity. Specifically, the Department strives to identify the proteins and mechanisms that protect multicellular organisms (including humans) from infection. Toward this end, the Department has assembled a highly interactive group of investigators with expertise in the theory and practice of forward genetics: the creation of phenovariance, its detection by phenotypic screening, and its solution by positional cloning or other methods.
The Department of Genetics will not confine its focus to one type of model organism. Genetic analyses of mammals, insects, fish, worms, and plants all have much to tell about host resistance, and many universal principles in the fields of innate and adaptive immunity have emerged from inquiries performed with each of these systems. Nor will there be a focus on a single infectious disease, nor even on a single class of infectious microbes, because all resistance mechanisms, whether shared or unique, have exciting stories to tell.
But a strong focus on host resistance/innate immunity will be the core theme for the entire faculty in the Department of Genetics.
This concentrated approach is taken because:
Innate immunity to infection is one of the most important phenomena in biomedicine. It is also one of the most complex phenomena in biology, and presents a vast and largely uncharted territory for geneticists to explore. The genomes of most multicellular species have been built around the need for host resistance, and at the same time, fundamentally new resistance mechanisms can be created by mutations.
A commonality of interests among department members who routinely use and fully understand classical genetics and its power will foster a spirit of genuine collegiality shared curiosity about the problems being studied.
Evolutionary perspective and a more thorough comprehension of how host resistance mechanisms operate will grow from the ability to study homologous pathways in divergent model organisms.
The Department of Genetics will draw upon the historical strengths of TSRI in the fields of chemistry, structural biology, and immunology, and in turn will contribute outstanding expertise in genetics.