James Gusella, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Human Genetic Research
Dr. James F. Gusella, born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, received a B.Sc. in Honours Biology from the University of Ottawa in 1974. He continued his education at the University of Toronto, where he earned a M.Sc. degree in Medical Biophysics in 1976 and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his Ph.D. in Biology in 1980. Foregoing the usual period of postdoctoral training, he moved directly to establishing his own independent laboratory at the Massachusetts General Hospital where he pioneered the use of DNA sequence polymorphisms as genetic markers, initially demonstrating the feasibility of this new approach by mapping the Huntington's disease gene to chromosome 4. This discovery set off a torrent of similar studies aimed at identifying genes by their chromosomal position and provided a major impetus for the development of the Human Genome Project. It also led to the isolation in 1993, together with MGH colleague Marcy MacDonald and an international consortium, of the Huntington's disease gene and its trinucleotide repeat mutation. For three decades, Dr. Gusella has used genetic strategies to identify genetic factors in a variety of nervous system disorders and to characterize mechanisms of pathogenesis. In 2003, he was named Director of the newly formed MGH Center for Human Genetic Research (CHGR) an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental research center whose central mission is to promulgate the 'Genetic Research Cycle' in all areas of medicine. With a focus on participating in intra- and inter-institutional collaborations to form interactive teams that include both clinical and basic researchers, his laboratory currently pursues studies of disease mechanism and modification in Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis and autism/neurodevelopmental disorders.
Dr. Gusella is also Bullard Professor of Neurogenetics in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Neurofibromatosis and Allied Disorders. He has authored over 450 scientific publications and has served on the editorial boards of more than a dozen biomedical journals. He has also participated in scientific advisory boards of several genetic disease-related foundations, including the Huntington's Disease Society of American, the Children's Tumor Foundation, the Dysautonomia Foundation and the National Alliance for Autism Research, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the former two and as a founding member and advisor to the Autism Consortium. Aspects of Dr. Gusella's work have been recognized by several awards and honors, including, among others, the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Health, the National Health Council Award for Medical Research, the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research Lois Pope LIFE International Research Award, the Neuronal Plasticity Award of the IPSEN Foundation, the Robert S. Dow Award for Neuroscience, the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, and the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine.