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Tim Reddy: The Basis for Differences

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Recommended by: Huntington Willard, Duke University

Tim Reddy started off on the computational side of things: He received his undergraduate degree in computer science. "For much of my life, I always enjoyed working on computers and programming computers," he says. "As I went through college, I was looking for ways to use those skills that were applicable to human health and help fundamental understanding of biology." That's when he became interested in bioinformatics.

Now, "I spend about half my time working at the wet lab … and actually doing a lot of the experiments myself, but then using computational skills to analyze that data," he says.

Reddy's lab studies the genetic basis for differences in gene expression between people. "If you look at a lot of disease studies, for example, a lot of the genetic variation that's associated with disease risk [seems to be] more likely to involve gene regulation, at least for complex diseases such as diabetes," he says. "My lab is trying to understand how we can take that genetic variation that occurs outside of genes and understand what it is actually doing in the context of regulating genes in the genome."

In addition, "we are starting to get into looking at allele-specific activities, which is particularly interesting if the variation in [a] region is associated with disease risk for example," he says.

Paper of note

In one study published in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Reddy and his lab looked at how levels of glucocorticoids change throughout the day.

"We tried to do some genome-wide studies to understand how these different levels of glucocorticoids impact the regulation of different genes at different doses," Reddy says. "The study indicates that those oscillating levels of cortisol might actually time gene expression in different parts of the body to regulate certain genes early in the day and other genes later in the day."

And the Nobel goes to…

Though Reddy says "it would be hard to imagine ever winning [the Nobel Prize], I think coming up with discoveries that have such a great impact for human health, I would be very proud of that."

He notes however that such efforts usually take "an army of people and rarely just one person."

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