Center Overview


The Center for Molecular Epidemiology is an Institutional Development Award (IDeA), funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences, that is transforming the research capacity at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine by stimulating high impact research, and translating cutting-edge approaches to enhance human health discoveries. The five-year Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grants support thematic, multidisciplinary centers that augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity.

In Phase I of the Center for Molecular Epidemiology, promising early career investigators are carrying out innovative molecular epidemiology research surrounding the central themes of:

1) Applying state-of-the-art scientific discoveries and technologies to address major health concerns;

2) Identifying early indicators of disease pathogenesis; and

3) Exploring common pathways of disease etiology and progression.

“I am very excited that Dartmouth has received this award,” said Duane Compton, PhD, senior associate dean for research and director of the Cancer Mechanisms Research Program. “It will allow us to build a center devoted to understanding how environmental exposures combine with genetic backgrounds to impact human health.”

“It also recognizes the scientific strength and mentoring abilities of Dr. Margaret Karagas who has been instrumental in developing this program at the Geisel School of Medicine.”

Geisel School of Medicine and Dartmouth College researchers lead projects targeting emerging public health issues that will inform early prevention and changes in practice.

Brock Christensen, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Center’s biorepository core, leads the project investigating early risk factor related epigenetic alterations in breast cancer pathogenesis. He is testing the hypothesis that known and suspected breast cancer risk factors contribute to epigenetic alterations in normal breast tissue to cancer.

Juliette Madan, MD, MS, assistant professor of pediatrics, leads the project investigating the neonatal microbiome. Building on her current research in babies with cystic fibrosis and prematurity, she is investigating intestinal bacterial colonization in pre- and full-term infants and how they are connected to infection and allergy risk.

Tracy Punshon, PhD, research assistant professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College, leads the project assessing maternal-fetal exposure pathways using bio-imaging. This research examines the relationship between maternal and infant biomarker concentrations, placental concentrations and distribution, and possible modification by candidate gene polymorphisms.

Anne Hoen, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, leads the project investigating functional studies of the developing infant gut microbiota using metabolomics. Dr. Hoen is investigating the infant nutritional factors that shape gut microbiota function in the first year of life, integrating with ongoing DNA sequence-based microbiome characterizations of the same samples, and will explore the role of the gut microbiota in mediating associations between nutritional factors and health outcomes in infants and young children.

“We have an extraordinarily talented group of early career faculty conducting state-of-the-art epidemiologic research,” said Margaret Karagas, PhD, professor of epidemiology, and Director of the Center. “Epidemiology is becoming increasingly valued for its contribution to illuminating the causes, and in turn, prevention of human disease. We hope this new infrastructure will serve not only the institution, but the region and beyond.”

Wendy Wells, MD, professor of pathology, and Brock Christensen, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, co-direct the Biorepository Core. This Core provides specialized expertise to the proposed projects for the five-year COBRE and will produce a sustainable Core for Molecular Epidemiology.


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