In 1996, when I became a professor at Harvard Medical School, I took over the leadership of what was then the Channing Laboratory Respiratory Unit expanding the unit from 3 to 25 faculty members and from 3 to 65 million dollars a year in NIH funding over a 10-year period. I am currently an associate director of the Channing Laboratory Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a Professor at Harvard Medical School. In this capacity, I co-lead a research group of 25 investigators and 100 staff members involved in examining the environmental exposures and genetic risk factors that cause asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I recently stepped down as the Scientific Director of the Mass General Brigham Center for Personalized Medicine where I supervised a faculty of 12 and a staff of over 140 who are dedicated to translating the results of human genome research into clinical practice at Mass General Brigham. My Channing laboratory group has close working relationships with the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), where I am a Professor of Environmental Health (Respiratory Biology Program), the Biostatistics Department at HSPH, the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, and the Immunology Division, in the Department of Medicine, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
I initially trained as a respiratory epidemiologist and clinical pulmonologist. I founded the Pulmonary Division at Beth Israel Hospital in 1978. In 1986, I decided to focus primarily on research and returned to the Channing Laboratory, now the Channing Division of Network Medicine, while continuing to see patients at Beth Israel. I gave up patient care in 2012. My long-standing research interests have been in environmental and genetic risk factors for the development of asthma and (COPD). My initial work concerned the role of environmental tobacco smoke exposure in the development of asthma. I then studied the effect of airway responsiveness in populations on the development of COPD and the effect of asthma and allergies in children and young adults on the natural history of COPD. In 1994, I developed a strong interest in the genetics/genomics of asthma. By 2000, when the human genome was mapped, I was fully funded to do research on the genetics of airways disease. At that time, we identified the vitamin D receptor as a gene for asthma and have completed a clinical trial giving vitamin D to pregnant women to prevent asthma and allergies in their offspring. This trial has provided one of the first translational treatments for a complex trait based on genetics. This work has fueled a broader interest in how micronutrients modify maternal epigenetics, fetal gene expression, and influence subsequent disease risk in both the mother and the fetus which has fueled an interest in preeclampsia, preterm birth and autism. I am also exploring the role of the gut microbiome in asthma and autism development. Finally, I have also been interested in asthma pharmacogenomics. My broader interest in these research endeavors is understanding translational genomics or personalized medicine, using genomic markers to better predict drug treatment response and disease treatments and outcomes.
As the Scientific Director of Mass General Brigham Personalized Medicine, over the past 13 years I have developed core laboratories to serve the investigative community at MGH, BWH and MassGeneral Brigham. The Translational Genomics Core serves roughly 100 investigators/year and supports over 100 million dollars in NIH grants. We have built the MassGeneral Brigham Biobank a repository of serum, plasma and DNA that is linked to the electronic medical record. The Biobank has over 120,000 consented subjects enrolled with 60% of those enrolled subjects with bio-samples and 43,500 subjects with genomic data. Over 250 investigators receive free genetic (GWAS) data and or samples each year. The Biobank supports over 310 million dollars in NIH funded research. The Laboratory for Molecular Medicine is the leader in germ line genetic testing for research nationally and internationally. Finally, as a result of these resources, MassGeneral Brigham Personalized Medicine has obtained over 100 million dollars in NIH grants for participation in the eMERGE network, PASC, and the All of Us program.
My research is currently funded by the NIH and has been for the past 43 years. During this time, I have been the PI on over 50 NIH grants and I have contributed over $300 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in indirect costs on these grant proposals. I have collaborated with a variety of investigators on cooperative studies such as the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), SHARE, ABRIDGE, and EVE, and have served in an administrative capacity with the NHLBI for a variety of genetic epidemiologic programs, including the Special Emphasis Panel on the Use of NHLBI Specimens, the Oversight Committee for the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Asthma, the NHLBI Genotyping Service Study Section, the T-32 training grant study section, over 30 NHLBI workshops, and the oversight panel for the Genotyping and Sequencing Service. I have led multidisciplinary cooperative studies of asthma and COPD, and I have international research experience in: China, Norway, Mexico, England, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands. I am the Co-Principal Investigator of the only training program in the Clinical and Genetic Epidemiology of Lung Diseases (HL-07427). I have trained 51 investigators; 13 of whom have reached the rank of professor, and most of my trainees remain in academic medicine. I currently co-lead an NHLBI T-32 training grant and have mentored over 20 K grant (K08, K01, K25 K23 and K99/R00) awardees. I have authored or co-authored over 1000 papers and co-written and co-edited four books, including a comprehensive textbook of Respiratory Genetics. I have been a recipient of an NHLBI MERIT award. My career H index is 163. I was identified as being in the top 0.004% of biomedical researchers in the world in terms of impact during the period of 1996-2011 (Eur J Clin Invest. 2013 Dec; 43(12): 1339-65 PMID:24134636).
I am currently ranked 359 in the world (number 5 at MGB) in terms of most cited investigators 2021.