Genetic Mechanisms Cluster

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Arcady Mushegian

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports fundamental research and related activities designed to promote understanding of complex living systems at the molecular, sub-cellular, and cellular levels. Behind our mission stands a group of individuals whose efforts and great work make this Division outstanding; we are proud to showcase their hard work via this blog.

Dr. Mushegian completed his doctoral degree in Virology and Molecular Biology at Moscow State University, Former Soviet Union. He currently works as a Program Director and Cluster Leader for the Genetic Mechanisms Cluster. Dr. Mushegian started working in MCB in December of 2012. As a cluster leader, Dr. Mushegian provides advice to investigators, coordinates the funding decision process, manages proposals, maintain cluster budgets, develops post-panel reports, coordinates cross-directorate activities including multi-disciplinary panels, and brainstorm with colleagues.

Dr. Mushegian’s area of expertise is in bioinformatics. Prior to joining NSF, he was the Director of Bioinformatics at the Stowers Institute for eleven years. In his spare time, he greatly enjoys traveling with his wife, keeping up with his children, reading books and blogs, eating figs and apricots, and growing parsley in a community garden.

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Karen C. Cone

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports fundamental research and related activities designed to promote understanding of complex living systems at the molecular, sub-cellular, and cellular levels. Behind our mission stands a group of individuals whose efforts and great work make this Division outstanding; we are proud to showcase their hard work via this blog.

Dr. Cone completed her doctoral degree in Biochemistry and Genetics at Duke University. She currently works as a Permanent Program Director for the Genetic Mechanisms Cluster. Dr. Cone began working in MCB in January of 2009. As a program director, Dr. Cone manages the review and funding decisions for proposals submitted to Genetic Mechanisms. She also manages existing awards, which includes reviewing annual reports and processing supplement requests. Furthermore, she conducts outreach visits to prospective and current PIs. Dr. Cone is also the managing program director for the iPlant Collaborative, a large cyberinfrastructure project funded by BIO. She is also a member of several cross-disciplinary working groups that coordinate research activities across BIO and between BIO and other divisions.

Dr. Cone was a faculty member for 21 years in Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri.  Her research was focused in two areas: epigenetic regulation of gene expression in maize, and development of genetic and genomic resources for maize research.  Dr. Cone’s work involved both laboratory and field components; She had a huge corn field in the summer and spent a couple of weeks every January working in her winter nursery in Puerto Rico.

In her spare time, she likes to cook, eat, watch cooking shows on TV,  listen to NPR, read detective novels, do home improvement projects, garden, hang out with her pets (3 dogs and 1 cat) and her partner, and travel.

Jennifer Doudna featured as Influential Scientist in Time Magazine

Time Magazine recently published the “Time 100“, a list of influential leaders in their respective fields. We are pleased to report that MCB-funded investigator Jennifer Doudna was included as an influential scientist for her transformative research to develop gene editing technology.

Dr. Doudna , along with colleagues and collaborators, developed a now widely used genome editing tool known as the CRISPR-Cas1 system.  This invention emerged from Dr. Doudna’s interest in learning how an apparent bacterial adaptive immune system functions on a molecular level that is capable of protecting bacteria from deleterious foreign nucleic acids, including those delivered by bacteriophages. She and others found that CRISPR sequences represent a form of “memory” resulting from previous exposure to foreign DNAs and showed that fragments of these exogenous DNAs are integrated into the CRISPR array. Upon phage invasion, the CRISPR sequence is transcribed, together with a down-stream cas gene that encodes an endonuclease, such as Cas9 in Streptococcus pyogenes. The long, non-coding pre-CRISPR RNA (pre-crRNA) transcript is then processed, producing multiple different crRNAs. The crRNAs form a hybrid to a second CRISPR-encoded RNA called transactivating CRISPR RNA (tracrRNA), which has regions of complementarity to the various crRNAs. These RNA hybrid oligomers associate with the endonuclease and serve as a guide to target newly invading nucleic acids. Recognition of the foreign DNA triggers precise double-stranded cleavage, leading to complete nucleolytic degradation.

Understanding the molecular events by which CRISPRs function on the molecular level led Dr. Doudna and her collaborators to develop the pioneering genome editing capability that functions broadly across many species. Dr. Doudna gives an overview of this technology in the following video.

NSF funding for Dr. Doudna’s groundbreaking research began in 2007 and continues today.  Her research represents an excellent example of how fundamental research inspires innovation.

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1CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. These repeats are often associated with coding sequences for RNA-guided DNA endonuclease enzymes, general denoted “Cas” for CRISPR-associated.

This is MCB! Hear from Uebonda Denise McGee

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports fundamental research and related activities designed to promote understanding of complex living systems at the molecular, sub-cellular, and cellular levels. Behind our mission stands a group of individuals whose efforts and great work make this Division outstanding; we are proud to showcase their hard work via this blog.

Uebonda Denise McGee attended the University of Phoenix and began providing administrative support to MCB in March of 2008. Ms. McGee greatly enjoys working with the Genetic Mechanisms and System and Synthetic Biology clusters. As Program Assistant, Ms. McGee provides customer service, travel, and panel support to the division and the scientific community. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, reading books, and shopping.