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Featured Member: Bertie Göttgens, DPhil

Posted By ISEH Headquarters, Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bertie Göttgens, DPhil
McCulloch and Till Award Winner

Dr. Bertie Göttgens, too, is thrilled and also humbled to receive this ISEH honor. "The McCulloch and Till Award is a highlight of my career to date," Göttgens expresses. "I studied biochemistry for my first degree at the University of Tübingen in Germany. My degree course was very traditional with a strong emphasis on classical biochemistry such as having to learn by heart the famous Boehringer Biochemical Pathways Map. However, I was more interested into the then still emerging field of molecular biology, in particular gene regulation. I therefore chose to do a PhD with Prof. Lorna Casselton in Oxford, where my goal was to identify and functionally characterize homeobox transcription factors that control mating in mushrooms. The subsequent jump from studying sex in fungi to blood stem cells was by chance. I was looking for an exciting lab working on gene regulation in the Cambridge area and was offered a postdoc position in the lab of Tony Green. This turned out to have been an excellent choice, particularly as I was very quickly given the opportunity to establish my own research theme which ever since has been to combine state of the art transgenic assays with bioinformatic and genomic approaches to study transcriptional control mechanisms in blood stem and progenitor cells."

Today, Dr. Göttgens is reader in molecular haematology on a permanent position within the Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge. He runs an 11-strong research group funded through grants won competitively from a variety of funding agencies. The group is based in the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, a multi-disciplinary centre of excellence within the Medical School of Cambridge University. The long-term research goal of the Göttgens group is to decipher the molecular hierarchy of transcriptional networks responsible for blood stem cell development. To this end, the group uses complementary state-of-the-art approaches including transgenic mice, bioinformatics, ChIP-Seq assays and mathematical modelling of stem cell regulatory networks. In particular, the group has been at the forefront of using new techniques for the analysis of gene regulatory elements such as long-range genomic sequence comparisons (Nature Biotech 2000), transgenic characterisation of blood stem cell enhancers (EMBO J 2002), genome wide computational screens for gene regulatory elements with predicted in vivo activity (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004; Hum Mol Genet 2005; Bioinformatics 2005; Dev Cell 2009), chip-on-chip assays (Genome Research 2006; Blood 2008; Blood 2009; Mol Cell Biol 2010), regulatory network reconstruction (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007; PLoS Comp Biol 2010), the first ChIP-Seq analysis of any key blood stem cell regulator (Blood 2009), and the first multi-factor ChIP-Seq analysis of any adult stem/progenitor cell type (Cell Stem Cell 2010). The cumulative output of more than 50 research papers over the last five years has been the development of the most comprehensive transcriptional dataset for any adult stem/progenitor cell type with more than 100 in vivo validated direct functional interactions.  When asked about the biggest challenge facing him in his professional life today, he cites the need of maintaining the right balance between regular interaction with his team to keep everybody motivated and focused on addressing important biological questions on the one hand against the constant temptation to be distracted by answering the many e-mails in his inbox marked urgent. When not "doing science," Dr. Göttgens enjoys spending time with his family.
"Given that my older daughter will finish school in three years, this family time is becoming ever more precious," he states.

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