Our group focuses on aging and mental health, two increasingly pressing quality of life issues. Current projects include:

The 10X Lifespan Project: The leading anti-aging strategy, manipulating the cellular insulin/mTOR pathway, causes a 0.1X lifespan extension. In addition to quantitatively modestly extending life, it is unclear whether it is a qualitative improvement. We aim for a 10X extension of healthy living. This project is discipline agnostic, meaning we are considering theoretical, organismal, societal, and environmental approach.

A Molecular Diagnostic for Mood: Mental health professionals lack a rigorous diagnostic tool like physicians have with glucose, cholesterol, and cell number measurements for Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, and Cancer, respectively. We aim to change that.

Disruptive Innovation of Blockbuster Drugs: Blockbuster drugs like the SSRIs/Lithium (Depression/Bipolar Disorder), Statins (CVD), Bisphosphonates (bone-involving diseases like Osteoporosis), and the Biguanides (Diabetes) are incumbent medicines that often have numerous reasons not to use them: they can have considerable side effects, simply not work well, and be expensive. We employ multiple technologies: CRISPR and other genetics, metabolic, computational systems approaches to identify targets for high-impact areas such as Osteoporosis and Depression/Bipolar Disorder. We have identified new targets for the Bisphosphonates and Lithium and are elucidating their biology.

MORPHEOME (Molecular ORphan PHEnOtype MatchEr)

Decades after the sequencing of the human genome, why do so many human genes remain poorly understood?

“Software is eating the world”, as internet pioneer Marc Andreessen said. As programming has gained greater adoption across scientific disciplines, numerous online biology resources and software packages have been developed to help scientists discover gene function. Despite considerable advances in both molecular biology and computation, a large fraction, ~25%, of human genes remain poorly characterized. Numerous algorithms have been developed to predict gene function through sequence, conservation, and structure. While these tools have improved the understanding of previously studied genes, less has been done to unmask the functions for the large pool of poorly characterized genes. Furthermore, existing computational tools for identifying novel gene functions often have cumbersome user interfaces and not well-maintained. Thus, computational accessibility to new biology remains limited.

MORPHEOME is a web service that aims to identify functions for all “orphan” genes. Details are forthcoming. For inquiries, please contact timrpeterson[at]wustl[dot]edu.