Colleagues: Recently Tenured
JONINE D. FIGUEROA, PH.D., M.P.H., NCI
Senior Investigator and NIH Distinguished Scholar, Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Education: Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania (B.S. in genetics and developmental biology); Columbia University, New York (M.P.H. in epidemiology); Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York (Ph.D. in molecular genetics and microbiology)
Training: Postdoctoral training in NCI-DCEG as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow (2005-2008)
Before coming to NIH: Tenured Professor and Chair of Molecular Epidemiology and Global Cancer Prevention at the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Came to NIH: In 2008 as a Research Fellow, then as an Investigator (2008-2015); returned in 2023 as Senior Investigator
Outside interests: Karaoke, cooking, and triathlons
Research interests: I research the interplay of biological, environmental, and socioeconomic determinants in cancer epidemiology studies. My specialty focus is breast cancer epidemiology. As a leader of integrative molecular epidemiologic research with a focus on global health, I investigate risk factors associated with breast cancer incidence and mortality in diverse populations.
I served as co-principal investigator of the Ghana Breast Health Study, where we are identifying risk factors for different subtypes of breast cancer to help inform public health strategies for prevention in Africa and African ancestry populations (Int J Cancer 147:1535-1547, 2020). In Scotland, using a socioeconomic index that integrated measures including income, health care access, crime, and education, we noted some inequities exist in breast cancer incidence and survival but differ depending on the molecular subtype of breast cancer (Breast Cancer Res Treat 194:463-473, 2022).
NEIL HANCHARD, M.B.B.S., D.PHIL., NHGRI
Senior Investigator, Center for Precision Health Research, National Human Genome Research Institute
Education: University of The West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica (M.B.B.S., which is equivalent to an M.D.) and University of Oxford (D.Phil. in human genetics and clinical medicine)
Training: Pediatric Residency, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota; Medical Genetics Residency and Fellowship, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
Before coming to NIH: Clinical Research Fellow, Tropical Medicine Research Institute, University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica). Physician Scientist and Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston)
Came to NIH: In 2021
Outside interests: I watch (and sometimes try to play) sports of all kinds—tennis, swimming, baseball, and soccer. My children are heavily involved in one or more of these so there’s usually something to occupy my non-work time. Otherwise, I try to stay engaged with my church community and spend time with family and friends.
Research interests: My main research interests are to use human genetics to better understand complex childhood diseases. Early in my career, I indulged this interest by studying the population genetics of the mutation that causes sickle-cell disease and identifying novel genes in the development of congenital cardiovascular disorders and rare Mendelian disorders. More recently, I have tried to make inroads to our understanding of the pathogenesis of diabetic embryopathy (Genet Med 21:2453-2461, 2019), severe childhood malnutrition, and transfusion alloimmunization in sickle cell disease.
As head of the Childhood Complex Disease Genomics Section, I have continued much of the latter research, and we are currently working on three major projects. The first two are multi-omics studies. One project focuses on severe childhood malnutrition, trying to answer the question of why some children get a severe form of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor (eBioMedicine 75:103791, 2022; Nat Commun 10:5791, 2019). The second project is about refining the mechanism underlying our previously described association between a genetic locus and an increased risk of transfusion-related alloimmunization in sickle-cell disease (Blood Adv 2:3637-3647, 2018). The third project is a study to identify the genes and pathways that underlie childhood-onset essential hypertension.
These disorders are all more common among individuals with recent African ancestry, and so all our studies are underpinned by efforts to use population genetics to better understand the complex genomes of individuals from those ancestries (Nature 586:741-748, 2020; Am J Hum Genet 102:731-743, 2018). In keeping with this, I am the Chair of the Genome Analysis Working Group of the H3Africa Consortium, Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force of the American Society for Human Genetics, and a Distinguished Scholar at the NIH.
ALEXANDER KELLY, PH.D., NCI
Senior Investigator, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (LBMB), National Cancer Institute
Education: Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts (B.A. in biochemistry); University of California at San Francisco (Ph.D. in biophysics)
Training: Postdoctoral Fellow at The Rockefeller University (New York, New York)
Before coming to NIH: Research Associate at The Rockefeller University
Came to NIH: In 2012 as a Tenure-Track Investigator in the NCI-LBMB
Outside interests: Watching baseball; playing basketball; hiking; collecting modern furniture
Research interests: The faithful segregation of chromosomes is the key event of mitosis, and its dysregulation can lead to aneuploidies and genome rearrangements that drive tumor evolution and metastasis in cancer cells.
Chromosome segregation is mediated, in part, via attachment of spindle microtubules to kinetochores, large proteinaceous structures that assemble on each chromosome at a site called the centromere. A major focus of my lab at the NCI is to understand how the kinetochore is assembled onto centromeres (Science 359:339-343, 2018; J Cell Bio 218:3237-3257, 2019), and how kinetochore-microtubule attachments are edited to ensure that the genome is divided equally (Dev Cell 42:640-654, 2017). We have a longstanding interest in how the mitotic kinase Aurora B, a cancer drug target that is part of the chromosomal passenger complex, regulates these processes. A key future question is how kinetochores and key kinases such as Aurora B are differentially regulated in distinct cell types and contexts (for example, embryonic versus somatic cells) to promote chromosome segregation.
Entry into mitosis also triggers dramatic structural changes in chromosomes that are necessary for their proper segregation. My lab is interested in how chromosomes are compacted into rodlike structures by condensin complexes, and what regulates condensin activity. We found that a part of the transcriptional initiation complex, the DNA translocase/helicase TFIIH complex, is required for both the establishment and maintenance of chromosome structure in mitosis through regulation of condensin function independently of transcription (eLife 11:e75475, 2022).
Going forward, we will determine the mechanism by which TFIIH regulates condensin in vertebrates and mammals, and use chromosome-capture and live-imaging approaches to examine the kinetics of condensation. In addition to shedding light on the regulation of chromosome condensation, our studies will also influence our work on kinetochores, as transcription and condensins play important but incompletely understood roles in centromere function.
STEVEN MOORE, PH.D., M.P.H., NCI-DCEG
Senior Investigator, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), National Cancer Institute
Education: Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts (B.A. in psychology); Yale University School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut (M.P.H.); Yale University (Ph.D. in cancer epidemiology)
Training: Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Fellow, NCI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Before coming to NIH: Moore worked as a research analyst for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and as a statistical analyst in the Division of Preventative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Came to NIH: In 2005 as a predoctoral fellow in NCI-DCEG
Outside interests: Competitive masters running; board gaming; spending time with family
Research interests: I research how physical activity, obesity, and diet are related to human carcinogenesis and health through analyses of large-scale consortium datasets and high-throughput molecular epidemiology studies.
In one study, my collaborators and I found that aerobic physical activity is associated with lower risk of at least 13 different types of cancer (JAMA Intern Med 176:816–825, 2016). I also found that weightlifting was associated with lower risk of colon cancer, particularly among men. In other studies, my collaborators and I found that as little as 10 minutes per day of activity was associated with a gain of almost two years of life expectancy—a surprisingly large gain for so little activity time (PLoS Med 9:e1001335, 2012).
I also investigate the biological mechanisms underlying the relation of physical activity and obesity to health. For example, my collaborators and I found that abnormal metabolism of branched-chain amino acids may increase risk of breast cancer in women with an elevated body mass index (J Natl Cancer Inst 110:588-597, 2018). To extend this work, I also have explored hundreds of metabolic factors and risk of other obesity-associated cancers such as renal cell carcinoma and endometrial cancer to determine whether similar “mechanistic mediators” are at play.
I evaluate biomarkers for diet that I have uncovered throughout my research career. I hope to evaluate whether specific food biomarkers exist for distinct types of processed foods and beverages like energy drinks. Metabolomics—the study of small molecule constituents of a biological system—has made it possible to study human physiology and metabolism as well as measure dozens, if not hundreds, of dietary biomarkers simultaneously, which can in turn be used as objective measures of diet in cancer etiology studies.
In 2013, I was named an Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator and have since cofounded the Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS), a consortium comprising 65 international prospective cohorts that uses metabolomics to identify risk factors for chronic disease. My colleagues and I cocreated an online data analysis application named COMETS Analytics, which is used to conduct consortium-based analyses of metabolomics and other -omics data. I am a multiyear awardee of the DCEG Informatics Challenge for this work and other projects.
MANU OMAR PLATT, PH.D., NIBIB
Director, Biomedical Engineering Technology Acceleration (BETA Center), and Associate Director, Scientific Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Education: Morehouse College, Atlanta (B.S. in biology); Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) at Atlanta and Emory University, Atlanta (Ph.D. in biomedical engineering)
Training: A postdoctoral fellowship in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Before coming to NIH: Platt was a Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in the Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. He also was Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Cancer Scientist, Deputy Director of the Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Graduate Program at Georgia Tech, and Wallace Coulter Distinguished Faculty Fellow.
Came to NIH: In February 2023
Outside interests: I love movies, music, and television. I also enjoy theater, art, and lively conversations with my friends and family. Origami is also one of my hobbies so if there are other folders out there, look me up!
Research interests: In my lab, we study diseases of tissue remodeling and the mechanisms involved in going from healthy tissue to diseased tissue, which involves experimental and computational approaches. Many of our diseases of interest also disproportionately impact Black communities: large artery damage and strokes in children with sickle-cell disease (Exp Biol Med 241:755-765, 2016; Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 40:1220-1230, 2020), HIV-mediated cardiovascular disease (Mol Biotechnol 58:56-64, 2016), and predictive medicine in breast cancer progression and metastasis (Sci Rep 5:13855, 2015).
Now I am the director of the NIH-wide Center for Biomedical Engineering Technology Acceleration (BETA Center), housed within the NIBIB Intramural Research Program. The BETA Center serves as a model to bring a focused engineering approach to NIH researchers across disciplines to accelerate the development, validation, and dissemination of innovative technologies. At the BETA Center, we work to expand opportunities for biomedical engineering training and professional growth, including supporting individuals from diverse backgrounds.
As a nationally recognized leader in expanding diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it is an honor to serve as NIBIB’s associate director for Scientific Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
I am a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and have served as the Diversity Director for the National Science Foundation’s Center on Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS). I also cofounded Project ENGAGES: Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering and Science, which provides paid research lab experiences at Georgia Tech for Atlanta area African American high school students. I directed the Georgia Tech Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Educational Diversity grant program, which is an NIBIB-funded training program to increase and support diversity at the undergraduate level. Some accolades earned from this service include the NIH Director New Innovator award, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor award, and the Biomedical Engineering Society Diversity Award.
This page was last updated on Thursday, May 4, 2023