Genomics Expert Chairs Medical School’s Department of Biomedical Science
The new chair of the Department of Biomedical Science at FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine traces her love of scientific research to her roots in Midland, Mich.
“As the research headquarters for Dow Chemical,” said Janet Robishaw, Ph.D. “we had a very strong science program in high school, and it probably helped direct the route I went.”
A chemistry and biology double-major in college, Robishaw’s undergraduate thesis project on the hearts of hibernating ground squirrels had implications for cardiac bypass surgery.
Earning her Ph.D. at Penn State College of Medicine, Robishaw extended her earlier work to understand how to maintain heart viability during reduced blood flow, as occurs during “heart attacks.”
Under the tutelage of Nobel Laureate Alfred G. Gilman, M.D., Ph.D., Robishaw’s work directly contributed to the 1994 prize for discovering G-proteins, which function as signaling pathways that control every function in the body, making them excellent drug targets for the control of various diseases.
Most recently, Robishaw served as professor and associate director for research at the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. Her work utilizes DNA sequence and clinical information to identify genetic variants that are associated with common diseases. Her laboratory then performs functional screening of genetic variants to assess the relationship to the disease under study. This functional analysis runs the gamut from assessing the functional impact of a genetic variant in the test tube, to modeling the diseases in cultured cells and animals. By identifying functionally significant mutations that mimic disease characteristics, her work aids in the rapid translation of laboratory discoveries into medical practice.
At FAU, Robishaw looks forward to the exciting prospect of working at a young medical school hoping to expand its research program.
“I’m attracted to getting involved in programs where you have the ability to develop, refine, and direct the research,” she said. Additionally, she hopes to work with colleagues to increase future physicians’ exposure to genomics data that lays the foundation for the national Precision Medicine Initiative.
Her 30 years of NIH-funded research played a big role in FAU’s recruitment of Robishaw.
“Dr. Robishaw’s research has enormous potential to improve the health and well-being of patients with a wide variety of medical conditions,” said John W. Newcomer, M.D., vice dean for research and innovation, who served as chair of the search committee. “Her work has multiple opportunities for global impact.”