Eileen Furlong

Eileen Furlong
Head of Unit

The genome encodes the genetic blueprint that coordinates all cellular processes, which ultimately give rise to phenotype. The expression of genetic information is tightly regulated in both time and space at multiple steps, including transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational. The Genome Biology Unit takes an integrated systems-level approach to unravel these complex processes at all scales, integrating cutting-edge experimental and computational approaches.

In eukaryotes, many steps of gene expression, such as transcription and RNA processing, take place in the structurally complex environment of the nucleus and often involve remodelling of chromatin into active and inactive states. Messenger RNAs, once exported from the nucleus, undergo additional regulatory steps.

Their translation results in the production of proteins, whose functions define the characteristics of different cell types, or cellular phenotypes. Not all RNAs are translated, however. In recent years, multiple types of non-coding RNAs have been discovered that display diverse functionality. Genetic variation in non-coding and protein-coding genes alike, as well as the regulatory elements that govern their expression, can adversely affect the function of these genes, leading to diseases such as cancer. Groups within the Unit are investigating various aspects of genome biology in order to understand these processes leading from genotype to phenotype.

Overview of Research in the Genome Biology Unit

Frøkjær-Jensen Group
(from Sep. 2017)
Biological engineering to understand genome structure
Furlong Group Genome regulation and topology during embryonic development
Huber Group Multi-omics and statistical computing
Köhn Group (visiting) Phosphatase chemistry and biology
Korbel Group From genomic variation to molecular mechanism
Krijgsveld Team (visiting) Quantitative proteomics
Merten Group Microfluidic approaches in drug discovery and personalised medicine
Noh Group Epigenetic mechanisms of neurodevelopment and diseases
Savitski Team Stability proteomics for assessing the state of the proteome
Steinmetz Group Systems genetics and precision health
Typas Group Dissecting bacterial lifestyle and interspecies interactions with systems approaches

A notable strength of the Unit is its ability to address questions at different scales, ranging from detailed mechanistic studies (using biochemistry, genetics, microfluidics and chemistry) to genome-wide studies (using functional genomic, proteomic and computational approaches), often by developing new enabling technologies. For example, the development and integration of chemistry and microfluidic devices with the recent advances in next-generation sequencing will facilitate major advances in these areas in the coming years. Global, dynamic and quantitative measurements of biological molecules at all levels (DNA, RNA, proteins, cells, organisms, etc) as well as the integration of hypothesis and discovery-driven research characterise the Unit. The synergy between computational and wet-lab groups provides a very interactive and collaborative environment to yield unprecedented insights into how genetic information is ‘read’ and mediates phenotype through molecular networks.