Research Faculty and Labs

Through an interdisciplinary mix of expertise of molecular biology, genetic engineering, immunology, endocrinology, and pharmacology, the tight-knit team of Gill Center Chairs are pioneering innovations in critical realms of neuroscience including pain, neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration. Their research holds promise for better understanding and addressing a wide range of issues including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain and itch, schizophrenia, obesity, and addiction.

Putting leading neuroscientists with different backgrounds in such close proximity allows for incredible intellectual exchange. We have purposefully built a group with both shared values and complementary approaches, so the work we do together goes beyond what any researcher could accomplish alone.

Hui-Chen Lu, Ph.D., Gill Center Director

The Gill Chairs’ shared values center on a commitment to improving lives by uncovering the core processes of the nervous system. To do so, six Gill Chairs and a growing group of research scientists, technicians, students, and postdocs bring together a synergistic set of approaches that collectively yield exciting revelations in our evolving understanding of the brain.

Gill Center Labs

Richard DiMarchi Lab

The current research is focused on developing peptides and proteins with enhanced therapeutic properties through biochemical and chemical optimization, an approach termed chemical-biotechnology. This research has broadened the understanding of glucagon physiology and led to the discovery of single molecule mixed agonists for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. In this research we use a combination of synthetic and biological methods to produce novel macromolecules and we study their biological properties in various cells, some enabled by biotechnology approaches to enhance specific signaling pathways.

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Hui-Chen Lu Lab

The Lu Lab is fascinated by the stereotyped organization yet plastic nature of neural circuits, connecting specialized neurons in various stations, for brain function and behaviors. Abnormal neural wiring is a recurrent theme for most neurological disorders. Currently, they employ the power of transgenic mice and various state-of-the-art technologies to generate new knowledge on how neurons establish the connections and stay healthy throughout aging, as well as how environmental factors such as exogenous drug application impacts them.

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Dan Tracey Lab

Research in the Tracey laboratory aims to understand the general principles that govern the specification and function of neuronal circuits. We study this problem using the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster whose relatively simplified nervous system must perform many of the same computations that are carried out by our own.

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Alex Straiker Lab

Alex Straiker is a Senior Research Scientist in Dr. Ken Mackie's lab. In addition to his role in Dr. Mackie's lab, he has an independently funded research program, the goal of which is to characterize cannabinoid signaling in the brain and eye.

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Anna Kalinovsky

Dr. Kalinovsky’s lab seek to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern formation of neuronal circuits and networks. They utilize an array of anatomical, molecular, and imaging techniques to study differentiation of neuronal cell types and their assembly into functional circuits in wildtype and transgenic mouse brains. Specific questions under investigation involve the role of cannabinoid signaling in cerebellar development and evaluation of neurological consequences of perinatal exposure to marijuana.

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Andrea Hohmann Lab

My laboratory is focused on identifying novel therapeutic targets that exploit analagesic efficacy while minimizing drug abuse liability. The laboratory takes a multidisciplinary approach to validate analgesic interventions with a focus on identifying treatments for neuropathic pain, particulary neuropathic pain due to chemotherapeutic agents. We have targeted endogenous analgesic systems such as the endocannabinoid system, the brain's own cannabis-like system, to suppress pain without the unwanted side effect of direct cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the brain. We have also suppressed pro-nociceptive signaling, by disrupting protein-protein interactions downstream of NMDA receptors to suppress pathological pain without unwanted side-effects of NMDAR antagonists.

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Cary Lai Lab

The Lai Lab is focused on understanding the signaling properties of the receptor tyrosine kinase, ErbB4. This molecule can be activated by proteins encoded by the Neuregulin-1 gene, which has been identified as a risk factor for schizophrenia. It is our hope that an improved understanding of Neuregulin-1/ErbB4 signaling may provide insight into how these molecules increase risk for this neuropsychiatric disorder.

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Ken Mackie Lab

The Mackie Lab uses a range of techniques, including behavioral, electrophysiological, molecular, immunological, and imaging to understand how phytocannabinoids and endogenous cannabinoids produce their varied effects, with the goals of understanding their potential therapeutic applications and the consequences of their use as the brain is developing.