Sharmila Banerjee-Basu, Ph.D.
President & Chief Scientific Officer
Tel: 703-288-4420 8280 Greensboro Drive Suite 150
Fax: 703-288-4430 McLean, VA 22102
Dr. Banerjee-Basu earned her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Presidency College, Calcutta and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland, Her postdoctoral work began at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where she studied the role of transcription factors in gene regulation. As a staff scientist with the National Human Genome Research Institute, she used bioinformatics to study structure, function and evolution of homeodomain proteins with a focus on how mutations in these (and other) proteins contributed to human genetic disorders. In 2006, She founded MindSpec, a research organization to study autism using integrative, computational approaches.
The focus of my research is to gain a fundamental understanding of the molecular events that lead to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. We know that these complex disorders are caused by a combination of various factors acting in concert for pathogenesis. My specific interest is in establishing the contribution of genetics to these neurodevelopmental diseases. How does a particular genetic profile interact with environmental factors to develop a given disorder? I have been applying my broad research background in molecular biology and bioinformatics and my knowledge of protein structure-function relationships to establish molecular definitions of these neurodevelopmental disease processes.
To understand these complex neurodevelopmental disorders—in particular, autism—I and my colleagues at MindSpec have taken the strategy to translate vast amounts of genetic information into domains of molecular function. Our goal is to detect convergent molecular pathways that can serve as surrogates for drug development. We are building content-rich databases and novel computational tools for data mining, where the design of databases is rooted in the disease biology. Our ultimate goal is to integrate diverse pieces of molecular data with clinical information so that we can gain a systems-level understanding of a disease as complex as autism.
We are currently working on developing the various modules of our comprehensive database on autism, AutDB. We are gathering data from the diverse research areas on autism, such as genetics and animal models, in these modules. We apply statistical tools, meta-analysis, and new bioinformatics techniques like network analysis to the data. Our aim is to understand the statistical significance of these data sets. From there, we want to get a detailed understanding of the extent of interplay between the myriad factors that are involved in complex neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.
Our ultimate goal is to build disease models for autism that are based on statistical significance. We are collaborating with researchers in basic science laboratories so they can test these statistically-significant disease models, an approach that differs from hypothesis-driven studies. Our approach is starting to bear fruit and we already have some publications due to come out in the near future in the peer-reviewed literature.
[Selected list of 10 most recent articles; for full list see Google and PubMed links above]
Kumar A, Swanwick CC, Johnson N, Menashe I, Basu SN, Bales M, and Banerjee-Basu S (2011). A brain region-specific predictive gene map for autism derived by profiling a reference gene set. PLoS ONE 6: e28431.
Kumar A, Wadhawan R, Swanwick CC, Kollu R, Basu SN, Banerjee-Basu S (2011) Animal model integration to AutDB, a genetic database for autism. BMC Med Genomics 4:15.
Banerjee-Basu S, Packer A (2010) SFARI Gene: an evolving database for the autism research community. Dis Model Mech 3(3-4):133-5.
Chakrabarti B, Dudbridge F, Kent L, Wheelwright S, Hill-Cawthorne G, Allison C, Banerjee-Basu S, Baron-Cohen S (2009) Genes related to sex steroids, neural growth, and social-emotional behavior are associated with autistic traits, empathy, and Asperger syndrome. Autism Res. 2(3):157-77.
Basu SN, Kollu R, Banerjee-Basu S (2009) AutDB: a gene reference resource for autism research. Nucleic Acids Res 37 (Database issue):D832-6
Karkera JD, Lee JS, Roessler E, Banerjee-Basu S, Ouspenskaia MV, Mez J, Goldmuntz E, Bowers P, Towbin J, Belmont JW, Baxevanis AD, Schier AF, Muenke M (2007) Loss-of-function mutations in growth differentiation factor-1 (GDF1) are associated with congenital heart defects in humans. Am J Hum Genet. 81(5):987-94.
Kowarz L, Goker-Alpan O, Banerjee-Basu S, LaMarca ME, Kinlaw L, Schiffmann R, Baxevanis AD, Sidransky E (2005) Gaucher mutation N188S is associated with myoclonic epilepsy. Hum Mutat. 26(3):271-3; author reply 274-5.
Hardison AL, Lichten L, Banerjee-Basu S, Becker TS, Burgess SM (2005) The zebrafish gene claudinj is essential for normal ear function and important for the formation of the otoliths. Mech Dev 122(7-8):949-58.
Saleem RA, Banerjee-Basu S, Murphy TC, Baxevanis A, Walter MA (2004) Essential structural and functional determinants within the forkhead domain of FOXC1. Nucleic Acids Res 32(14):4182-93.
Banerjee-Basu S, Baxevanis AD (2004) Structural analysis of disease-causing mutations in the P-subfamily of forkhead transcription factors. Proteins: Structure, Function, and Genetics 54(4):639-647. (cover)
“Genetic Heterogeneity of Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Catherine Croft Swanwick, Eric C. Larsen, and Sharmila Banerjee-Basu. Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Role of Genetics in Diagnosis and Treatment. Williams, Tim (Ed.) InTech Open Access Publisher (2011)