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The National Human Genome Center Leadership Core


Charles N. Rotimi , Ph.D.

Dr. Charles Rotimi is a biochemist and a genetic epidemiologist in the National Human Genome Center (NHGC), College of Medicine at Howard University. He received his undergraduate education from the University of Benin in Nigeria before immigrating to the United States for further studies. Dr. Rotimi started his education in the US at the University of Mississippi where he obtained a masters degree in Health Care Administration. He obtained a second masters degree and a doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Acting Director of the NHGC and Director of Genetic Epidemiology, NHGC at Howard University in the College of Medicine.

His long-term scientific interest is directed at understanding the patterns and determinants of common complex diseases including diabetes, hypertension and obesity in populations of the African Diaspora.  Collectively, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and their complications explain over 80% of the well-documented health disparity that exists between African Americans and their White counterparts in the US.  Contemporary populations of African descent now live in very different social settings, from traditional to fully westernized lifestyles, with varying degrees of genetic admixture. 
Dr. Rotimi believes that studying these diverse populations may help explain phenomenon like the monotonic increase in hypertension rates as one moves from rural west Africa (about 7%) through the black nations of the Caribbean (about 26%) and the US (about 34%).  Taking advantage of the huge contrast in the distribution of risk factors in these contemporary African populations, Dr. Rotimi uses genetic epidemiology models to test whether high rate of diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity among African Americans is the result of exposure to higher levels of environmental risk factors, an increased genetic susceptibility, or an interaction between adverse environments and deleterious genes. Dr. Rotimi is the president of the African Society of Human Genetics.  

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Georgia M. Dunston, Ph.D. 

Dr. Dunston is founding director of the NHGC and director of the molecular genetics research program.  She is professor and former chair, Department of Microbiology. Dr. Dunston is an established investigator, nationally and internationally known for genetic research on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) polymorphisms in African Americans.  Her research on human genome variation in disease susceptibility has been the vanguard of current efforts at Howard University to build national and international research collaborations focusing on the genetics of diseases common in African Americans and other African Diaspora populations.
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George E. Bonney, Ph.D. 

Dr. Bonney is an internationally recognized statistical geneticist and the first to be recruited in 1998 to a position at the NHGC. As director of Statistical Genetics and Bioinformatics, Dr. Bonney has recruited a superb team of investigators to conduct the science and provide the statistical and analytical expertise required for the management and analyses of genome data. Dr. Bonney is Principal Investigator of an NIH grant to develop software for genetic epidemiology models (G.E.Ms). 
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Paulette Furbert-Harris, Ph.D.

Dr. Harris is director of the core laboratory for the genome center.  She  is a tenured faculty member of the Department of Microbiology and has been instrumental in establishing research protocols for the core laboratory at HU.  This core laboratory supports the AAHPC and AADM study networks. The AAHPC study network is a national cooperative of seven sites set up to study the genetics of prostate cancer, and the AADM Study Network is an international cooperative of five sites working together to study the genetics of type 2 diabetes. The AAHPC and AADM projects were planned and implemented in conjunction with investigators and scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and NIH Office of Research on Minority Health.   Dr. Harris currently has established more than 250 cell lines (lymphocytes, eosinophils, prostate) from allergic, asthmatic cancer patients and non-diseased individuals.  She will head the biobank for the new TgRAID Program.  Dr. Harris has accepted to be Guest Editor for the Cellular and Molecular Biology Journal.
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Charmaine Royal, Ph.D.

Dr. Royal is Director of the GenEthics Unit and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Division of Medical Genetics.  She received her B.S. in Microbiology, M.S. in Genetic Counseling, and Ph.D. in Human Genetics from Howard University.  She then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Bioethics and Special Populations Research Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Her areas of interest include: research on the ethical, legal, social, and psychosocial implications of human genetics/genome research for African Americans and other peoples of the African Diaspora; establishment of genetics education programs for both the professional and public sectors of these communities; and development of domestic and international polices related to human genetics/genome research and genetic services.  Dr. Royal has presented and published on the ethical and social dimensions of genetic research involving African Americans and other people of color, as well as on the psychosocial aspects of sickle cell disease and prostate cancer. 

Dr. Royal is a member of several professional organizations and serves on a number of professional committees. 
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