The MDI Biological Laboratory has announced that Joel Graber, Ph.D., will join the faculty as a senior staff scientist as of May 2. He will serve as director of the institutions Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Core.
As director of the core, Graber will collaborate with scientists from the MDI Biological Laboratory and from Maine INBRE, a statewide biomedical innovation network, to assist them in analyzing large quantities of complex biological data.
With the ability to study the entire genome of an organism, biologists are confronted with the task of managing enormous amounts of data, said Kevin Strange, Ph.D., MDI Biological Laboratory president. The need to extract useful information from this data puts bioinformatics at the forefront of scientific discovery. We are extraordinarily pleased to have someone with Joels background and skills to lead our program.
Graber will work in the institutions Kathryn W. Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, where scientists are working to identify the molecular pathways responsible for regeneration in organisms that have retained the ability to regenerate lost and damaged tissues and organs, then screening for drugs with the potential to reawaken these dormant regeneration pathways in humans.
Graber was attracted to the position by his interest in regenerative biology and by the opportunity to work closely with scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory and throughout Maine to help them efficiently analyze data and integrate computational biology best practices into the designs of their experiments.
Biology is increasingly data-driven, Graber said. Scientists are generating tens to hundreds of millions of pieces of information that have to be analyzed. This position will give me the opportunity to put what I have learned about dealing with big datasets over the last few years into practical use to ensure that MDI Biological Laboratory scientists are using, vetting and processing datasets in a rigorous, reproducible way.
Graber will also lead the development of the Comparative Models of Regeneration Database(RegenDB), a novel bioinformatics resource supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) whose function is to integrate gene function across multiple animal, tissue and cell models in order to validate and inform the hypotheses needed for the discovery and development of regenerative medicine drug therapies.
The development of the database is supported by the NIHs Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program, which focuses on regeneration, tissue repair and aging.
A physicist turned computational scientist, Graber comes to the MDI Biological Laboratory from The Jackson Laboratory, also located in Bar Harbor, where he focused on computational approaches to understanding post-transcriptional gene regulation and interactions, while also working intensively to process, analyze and interpret the genome-scale data sets generated within the Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) cancer study program.
Graber is a native of Munising, Mich. He holds dual bachelors degrees in physics and computer science from Michigan Technological University and a doctorate in experimental accelerator physics from Cornell University. After post-doctoral training in physics at Cornell and at the Deutches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany, his interests shifted to computational biology through a post-doctoral position at Boston Universitys Center for Advanced Biotechnology, where he trained with with molecular geneticist Charles Cantor, Ph.D., author of the first textbook on genomics, and Temple F. Smith, Ph.D., one of the founders of the field of bioinformatics.