Antonio Giraldez Named Chair of Genetics

Antonio J. Giraldez, Ph.D., has been appointed chair of the Department of Genetics, effective June 1, 2017. Giraldez is professor of genetics and is affiliated with the Yale Cancer Center and the Yale Stem Cell Center. He was director of graduate studies for the Department of Genetics from 2012 to 2016.

“Antonio is an outstanding investigator who has made major advances in our understanding of embryonic development. He is committed to continuing the outstanding academic tradition of the department,” said Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine.

My goal is to continue our trajectory of basic science discovery and bring the research that’s being done in our human genetics core closer to patients, so that we become a destination point for analyzing the genomes of thousands of patients.

Antonio Giraldez

Giraldez’s research in developmental biology, genetics, genomics, and computational biology delves into deciphering the mechanisms by which a single-cell zygote transforms into a multicellular organism. Using zebrafish as a model system, his major contribution has been to contribute to our understanding of the maternal-to-zygote transition—what he terms “embryonic puberty”—the shift that occurs after the embryo interprets and destroys maternal instructions and activates the code contained in its own genome. He also found that the same stem cell factors that reprogram cells play a key role in activation of the genome after fertilization, a universal step in embryonic development that allows an early embryo to develop into different cell types.

Under his leadership, the Department of Genetics will continue to recruit outstanding faculty as it moves into a more quantitative approach to genetics and developmental biology and seeks to bring new understanding to the function of individual genes, as well as the organization of nuclear architecture into gene function. At the same time, Giraldez is excited about the central role genetics will play in our program in personalized medicine. He is eager to build upon Yale’s strengths in genomic analysis for clinical diagnosis and to leverage the knowledge gained from clinical data to propel basic science discoveries using model systems.

Last year, Giraldez was named as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Scholar, an award that recognizes basic researchers who apply innovative approaches to biological problems that are relevant to human health. In 2014, he won the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Sciences. He was named as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences in 2008 and won the John Kendrew Young Investigator Award from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in 2007. He has twice been a finalist for the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists.

Giraldez obtained his doctoral degree in developmental genetics from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany and did postdoctoral training in developmental biology at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center and Harvard University.

This article was submitted by John Dent Curtis on June 13, 2017.