2018 Lorne Genome Conference

Professor Ali Shilatifard

Transcription and Epigenetics Relating to Cancer Biology

Dr. Ali Shilatifard, Professor of Biochemistry and Pediatrics and the Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, is a world-renowned biochemist and molecular biologist and a respected expert in the field of transcription and epigenetics, specifically as it relates to cancer biology. Shilatifard has an immense interest in understanding the intricate molecular mechanisms of the regulation of gene expression, the mechanisms that activate or suppress a particular gene’s trait. As a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow, Shilatifard made a seminal contribution to the field of leukemia biology by identifying the first function of any of the MLL translocation partners as an RNA Polymerase II elongation factor and linking transcription elongation control to cancer pathogenesis. Since then, his laboratory has continued to contribute to the field of epigenetics and its link to cancer biology through many discoveries including those of the COMPASS and SEC complexes, which are demonstrating to be central to the mechanisms involved in the development of cancer cell development. The Shilatifard lab’s focused studies over the past 20 years have made significant inroads to understanding the cause of childhood leukemia, and his studies are leading to the development of extremely promising target-specific drugs for childhood leukemia and other forms of cancers. Currently, the inhibitors developed in Shilatifard’s laboratory towards the COMPASS and SEC families are being tested for the treatment of childhood leukemia, brain cancer, and triple negative breast tumors.
For his contributions to our understanding of cancer epigenetics, Dr. Shilatifard has been recognized by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as the recipient of the Sword of the American Cancer Society, and the AMGEN Award by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He has been funded through several major grants from the National Institutes of Health, and National Cancer Institute. Recently, Shilatifard was selected as an inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute. He has served as a Senior Editor for the journal Science, Editor for Molecular and Cellular Biology and is currently serving as the Deputy Editor for Science Advances. Shilatifard also serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Genentech, the Max Planck Society and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers in Biomedicine. Shilatifard is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).

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