Internal Advisory Board

Elazar Eskin, PhD

Elazar Eskin, PhD

Inaugural Chair and Professor, UCLA Department of Computational Medicine
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Eskin serves as the inaugural chair for the UCLA Department of Computational Medicine. The Department is committed to transforming patient care by leveraging recent advances in artificial intelligence and genomics. The department provides a hub for collaborations across the UCLA campus to enable scientific discovery in biomedical data sciences and then works hand in hand with the UCLA Health System to apply these discoveries to improve patient care.

Around the time of the completion of the sequencing of the human genome in 2000, Dr. Eskin became fascinated in the intersection of computer science and biology and he decided to dedicate his careeer to this area. His current research interests are in the relationship between human variation and human disease. His group's research attempts to understand the genetic basis of disease by analyzing human variation data and attempting to discover functional variants which contribute to disease.  There are millions of variants in the genome and studies which attempt to identify the ones involved in diseases often require tens of thousands of individuals.  Analyzing these tremendously large datasets requires development of new computational techniques and solving challenging computational problems.  He has published more than 250 original research papers in both computational and biological publication venues. 

Dr. Eskin received his PhD in computer science from Columbia University. A recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, Dr. Eskin’s work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Enrique Rozengurt, DVM, PhD, AGAF

Enrique Rozengurt, DVM, PhD, AGAF

Hirschberg Memorial Chair in Pancreatic Cancer Research
Director, UCLA: Digestive Diseases Research Center
Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Rozengurt discovered that neuro-hormonal signals (e.g., peptides of the bombesin family) which act as molecular messengers in a rich network of information exchange throughout the organism via GPCRs, are potent cellular growth factors for multiple cell types in culture, including intestinal and pancreatic epithelial cells and function as autocrine/paracrine mitogens for human cancer cells. He studies the transmission of the neuro-hormonal signal from surface receptors to the nucleus along a number of transduction pathways, typically protein kinase cascades, that act in a synergistic and combinatorial fashion to regulate gene-regulatory networks leading to cell migration and proliferation. In the course of this work, he reported on the cloning and expression analysis of a novel protein kinase termed protein kinase D (PKD). PKD is directly activated by the potent tumor promotors of the phorbol ester family and also is part of a novel phosphorylation cascade downstream of protein kinase C (PKC). Research activities in this area include a detailed mutational analysis to define the contribution of different domains of PKD to its regulation, modulation of its expression to determine the role of PKD in cell regulation and development of animal models with over-expression or under-expression of PKD in the epithelial cells of the digestive system. In addition to serine/threonine protein kinase cascades, his studies demonstrated that neuropeptides also stimulate a rapid increase in the tyrosine phosphorylation of multiple substrates including focal adhesion kinase (FAK), paxillin, and Crk-associated substrate (CAS). These proteins localize at focal adhesion plaques and are implicated in cell migration, proliferation, and transformation. The signals converge on the transcriptional co-activators YAP and TAZ, which are emerging as potent oncogenes in pancreatic cancer. The work of Dr. Rozengurt is dissecting the molecular mechanisms by which neuro-hormonal agonists and growth factors induce these downstream pathways in intestinal and pancreatic epithelial cancer cells and is elucidating the role of these pathways in cell migration, proliferation and cancer. This work is also identifying inhibitors that block the signaling network at different steps and thus provides novel approaches for the treatment of proliferative diseases of the digestive system.

Felix E. Schweizer, PhD

Felix E. Schweizer, PhD

Professor and Vice-Chair for Education, Department of Neurobiology
Chair, Graduate Neuroscience Interdepartmenatl Program (NSIDP)
Interim Director, Brain Research Institute (BRI)
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Schweizer was born in Basel, Switzerland and conducted his graduate research in the laboratory of Prof. Max M. Burger under the direction of Dr. Theo Schafer. He received his PhD degree in biochemistry summa cum laude from the University of Basel in 1989. From 1990 to 1994, he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University in the laboratory of Prof. Richard W. Tsien. From 1994 to 1998, he was postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University in the laboratory of Professor George J. Augustine. Dr. Schweizer joined the Department of Neurobiology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 1998 as assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 2010. Dr. Schweizer’s research interests concern the molecular mechanisms by which neurons communicate, the regulation of communication by neurons and how alterations in neuronal communication might contribute to neuronal diseases. The Schweizer laboratory uses electrophysiological and optical tools to investigate the dynamic molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of neurotransmitter release. We are particularly interested in the role of protein ubiquitination in regulating neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission. In collaboration with Dr. James Wohlschlegel, we used multiplexed SILAC and identified synaptic proteins that are dynamically regulated. More recently, in collaboration with Dr. David Krantz, we are using pesticides linked to neuro-degenerative disorders as unbiased tools identify novel pathways that might be involved in early signs of degeneration. In addition, we are characterizing transmission at the first synapse of the vestibular system, i.e. between utricular sensory hair cells and primary afferent neurons. In collaboration with Dr. Larry Hoffman we are finding that changing the gravitational load alters synaptic structures. We are now using serial EM and EM tomography in addition to physiology and cell biology to define in more detail the transfer function between head-movement input and afferent nerve-firing output.