Graham McVicker

Frederick B. Rentschler Developmental Chair
Assistant Professor
Laboratory of Genetics
Integrative Biology Laboratory

Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Graham McVicker

Current Research

The Problem

Differences in our genome sequences, or genetic variants, have a profound influence on many human traits such as height, blood pressure and disease risk. Yet there are millions of genetic differences between individuals and it is difficult to determine which of them are important. Recently, geneticists have made tremendous progress in this area by sequencing the genomes of thousands of individuals. Many genetic variants are now associated with human traits, however, in most cases we still do not understand how these variants function. Unraveling how genetic variants affect molecular processes within human cells will give us a new understanding of health and disease.

The Approach

Graham McVicker is developing innovative computational and statistical techniques to unscramble the molecular function of human genetic variation. McVicker is specifically interested in understanding how genetic variants affect chromatin in the immune system. Chromatin is the molecular packaging that organizes DNA within the nucleus of the cell and controls which genes are turned on in specific cells. By gaining a mechanistic understanding of these variants and linking them to disease risk, he will illuminate why some individuals are more susceptible to autoimmune and infectious diseases.

The Innovations and Discoveries

McVicker previously discovered human genetic variants that affect chemical modifications of an important protein of chromatin, histones. He showed that many of these variants disrupt the binding of specific proteins to the DNA sequence and also affect the expression of nearby genes.

He identified factors that are important for positioning nucleosomes—the fundamental unit of chromatin—on the human genome sequence.

He demonstrated that natural selection has influenced patterns of genetic variation across the human genome.

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BS, Computer Science, University of British Columbia
PhD, Genome Sciences, University of Washington

Awards & Honors

  • 2009 Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Graduate Student Travel Award
  • 2005 Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Post Graduate Scholarship
  • 1997 University of British Columbia Outstanding Student Initiative Scholarship