News

Sagi Shapira,PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons and Nicholas Tatonetti, PhD, associate professor of bioinformatics and of systems biology at VP&S, have recently been awarded a new pilot grant to support their collaboration in COVID-19 research.

Drs. Shapira and Tatonetti are one of three teams who have been awarded a COVID-19 research pilot grant from the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. The pair will work on accurately identifying pathophysiological factors that modulate SARS-CoV-2 infection and explain variability in disease outcomes.

Read the full article here

Raul Rabadan , PhD, is an expert in uncovering patterns of evolution in highly dynamic biological systems, including in complex diseases like cancer. As the author of Understanding Coronavirus , a new book published by Cambridge University Press in June,  Dr. Rabadan, who originally began his academic career in mathematical physics, has set out to provide readers an accessible overview that quells misinformation about the novel virus, its origin, causes, and spread.

New Book by Raul Rabadan, PhD

Dr. Rabadan co-directs the Cancer Genomics and Epigenomics research program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) , is professor of systems biology and of biomedical informatics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons , and directs Columbia’s Program for Mathematical Genomics . He joined Columbia in 2008 right before the novel influenza, H1N1 or “swine flu”, emerged and quickly spread across the U.S. and the world.

At the time, Dr. Rabadan’s work honed in on understanding the genomic changes in a virus infecting a host and investigating how these changes contribute to the virus’ transfer to a different species. He continues to be fascinated by what can be gleaned from examining disease evolution.

When COVID-19 cases surged through the U.S., particularly in New York City in March, Dr. Rabadan—like many fellow scientists—contributed his research toward developing a treatment or vaccine. Scheduled to be on sabbatical this year, Dr. Rabadan instead remained quarantined with his family in New York City, shifting his attention to the new book and his own ongoing work in the genomics of cancer and COVID-19 research.

Read a Q+A with Dr. Rabadan, here

The seemingly chaotic bacterial soup of the gut microbiome is more organized than it first appears and follows some of the same ecological laws that apply to birds, fish, tropical rainforests, and even complex economic and financial markets, according to a new paper in Nature Microbiology by researchers led by Dennis Vitkup , PhD, associate professor of systems biology , at Columbia Univesrity Irving Medical Center .

One of the main challenges facing researchers who study the gut microbiome is its sheer size and amazing organizational complexity. Many trillions of bacteria, representing thousands of different species, live in the human intestinal tract, interacting with each other and the environment in countless and constantly changing ways.

"Up to now, it has been an open question whether there are any natural laws describing dynamics of these complex bacterial communities.”-Dr. Vitkup

The study’s discovery of multiple principles of gut bacterial dynamics should help researchers to understand what makes a gut microbiome healthy, how it may become perturbed in disease and unhealthy diets, and also suggest ways we could alter microbiomes to improve health. Read the full article in the CUIMC Newsroom. 

The study is titled “Macroecological dynamics of gut microbiota.” The other contributors are Brian W. Ji (Columbia), Ravi U. Sheth (Columbia), Purushottam D. Dixit (Columbia and University of Florida, Gainesville, FL), and Konstantine Tchourine (Columbia).

Molly Przeworski , PhD, professor of biological sciences and of systems biology , has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) . Announced on April 27, Dr. Przeworski joins two fellow Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) faculty members named to the 2020 class, recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Molly Przeworski, PhD
Molly Przeworski, PhD

Dr. Przeworski's work aims to understand how natural selection has shaped patterns of genetic variation and to identify the causes and consequences of variation in recombination and mutation rates in humans and other organisms. Earlier this month, she was also elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences , which recognizes and celebrates excellence of scientists, artists, scholars, and leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors.

A member of Columbia’s Program for Mathematical Genomics , Dr. Przeworski is the recipient of the Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist award, the Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator award, the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research award, and an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship. 

The NAS has elected 120 members and 26 international members to its new class.

Related: Three CUIMC Faculty Members Elected to National Academies ( CUIMC News )

Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) has established this website for any and all coronavirus information. Columbia faculty, students, researchers, clinicians, and patients, should turn to this resource to learn up to date information about how the University is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information on this website is updated on a daily basis and ranges from patient care, questions about research, changes for staff/employees, and more.

CUIMC students, faculty, or staff may direct questions to covid19questions@cumc.columbia.edu. The community is encouraged to check this resource center for frequent updates.

Video message for the CUIMC community from Lee Goldman, MD, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and chief executive of CUIMC; Jack Cioffi, MD, president of ColumbiaDoctors; and Donna Lynne, DrPH, chief operating officer of CUIMC.