Mary Lyon Medal 2016 – Dr Duncan Odum
Dr Duncan Odom started his academic work at New College of Florida, which is an alternative (i.e. hippy) liberal arts and sciences university in Florida. He then obtained his PhD in bioinorganic chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 2001. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute / MIT (2001-2006), he developed and applied novel genomics tools to explore transcription factor binding in yeast and mammalian tissues. Since 2006, his laboratory at the University of Cambridge, located in the Cancer Research UK-Cambridge Institute, has been exploring the functional evolution of mammalian genomes.
Duncan’s independent studies were the first efforts using modern, genome-wide experimental tools to empirically explore mammalian regulatory evolution. His publications include the first genome-scale demonstration that gene expression profiles can remain conserved despite extensive turn-over of transcription factor binding sites, followed by a study extending this analysis to transcription factor binding site turnover across over 300 million years of evolution in five highly diverse vertebrate species. His laboratory has mapped the complete enhancer and promoter repertoire in a model somatic tissue using livers from twenty species of mammals, revealing that most enhancers in a given species are recently born into ancestral (and ancestrally inactive) DNA. Finally, Dr Odom’s laboratory has re-purposed an aneuploid mouse strain that carries an almost complete copy of human chromosome 21, originally developed to explore the molecular features of Down syndrome, to provide an elegant and powerful demonstration that cis sequences have a greater impact than trans influences on transcription factor binding, chromatin state, and gene expression.
Duncan previously served as an EMBO Young Investigator (2010-2012), was presented the Darwin Lecture from the Royal Society in 2014, and has just been elected a member of EMBO (2015).