Center for Genomics and Systems Biology


The Center for Genomics and Systems Biology (CGSB) at New York University Abu Dhabi was established to provide a nexus for cutting-edge life sciences research in the United Arab Emirates, with world-class facilities and resources to promote innovative advances in genomics and systems biology.

The Center fosters and enhances the research and training missions of NYUAD, where undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists engage in research across disciplines, facilitated by advanced instrumentation and computational support for high-throughput data collection, visualization, and analysis. The NYUAD-CGSB operates in partnership with its sister center, NYU Biology’s CGSB in New York, in an open organizational framework that enables transformative collaborative work across the globe supported by joint technology and service platforms.

Research Programs

The most fundamental questions in the life sciences ask how molecular systems are built from the interaction of molecular genetic elements, how such networks adapt to new conditions, when and how they break down (as in diseases), and how natural selection works at the network level to enable living systems to adapt to very different environments.

Over the last decade, the complete genome sequences for thousands of organisms, including humans, have been elucidated, opening new horizons to biological research. The major focus for the next phase of biological research is to identify the mechanisms that underlie the evolution of these genomes and that transform genomic information into cellular and organismal behaviors using a global or "systems" level view. The Center encompasses four broad topical programs aimed at developing significant research endeavors in genomics and systems biology, with emphasis on key areas of regional biodiversity, renewable resources, disease-related chemical and functional genomics, and neuronal systems.

Biodiversity and Environmental Genomics

The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, is the major agricultural crop species that evolved in the Arabian Peninsula, yet little is currently known about its genetics. Cultivated as early as 6,000 years ago and now throughout the Middle East and North Africa, date palm varieties vary in many characteristics such as fruit size, shape, and sugar content. We are using genomic studies to trace the origin, spread, and variation of date palms and to facilitate breeding efforts for specific desirable traits.

Bioenergy and Algal Systems Biology

Algae have a wide range of potential applications in the production of biofuels and bio-renewables; however, significant challenges must be addressed before algal-based bioproducts can be commercially produced. We are applying systems approaches to study the metabolic circuitry of the model algal species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the diversity of novel species isolated from around the UAE. We are developing synthetic biology approaches to optimize species with desirable characteristics for the production of biofuel precursors or other bioproducts of interest.

Chemical and Functional Genomics

We have developed a high-throughput and high-content phenotypic screening platform to identify and characterize novel bioactive molecules and their molecular targets using whole organism and cell-based assays. Our current focus is in two discovery areas aimed at developing novel potential therapeutic strategies for parasitic nematode infections and other diseases like cancer, using small molecule libraries and natural products derived from microbes that populate different ecological niches in the region.

Neuronal Systems and Molecular Complexity

The huge diversity of cell types and the number of neuronal connections in the brain are a daunting problem that must be understood in order to comprehend neural circuit function. The central goal of this program is to understand neural diversity at the most detailed molecular level by profiling the gene expression patterns of neurons in the invertebrate and vertebrate brain. We take advantage of powerful molecular tools to label and isolate individual classes of neurons and sequence their transcriptomes, which we are using to build a map of regulatory proteins, molecular markers, and functional features as part of a long-term effort to map the neuronal circuitry in the brain.