Elaine Ostrander is a geneticist recognized for her work on advancing the dog as a genetic system for studies of morphology, disease susceptibility and behavioral variation. She has identified genes and variants controlling breed-specific variation observed across domestic dog breeds. Ostrander completed her Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Washington in 1981 and her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the Oregon Health and Science University in 1987. She did postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University and then the University of California at Berkeley where she initiated the Dog Genome Project. She joined the faculty of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle in 1993 and moved to the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health in 2004. She currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Investigator and Chief of the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch. She has won several awards including the 2013 Genetics Society of America Medal, Asa Mays Award, and an NIH Director’s Award. She also received Doctorem Honoris Causae from the Universities of Utrecht in The Netherlands and Rennes in France. She is a fellow of AAAS and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Our lab is interested in understanding the role that genomic variation plays in canine morphology, behavior and disease susceptibility. We study all aspects of canid biology including evolution, genome architecture, breed formation, breed-specific disease, behavior, and the genetics of morphologic variation between breeds. Using genome sequencing, we show that most breed-defining traits, such as body size, ear position, leg length, etc., are controlled by small numbers of genes of large effect, and that most are also relevant for human health and biology. We also study breed-specific diseases, most of which are the same as or mimic human disorders, with a particular emphasis on cancer. Understanding the genetic underpinnings of such diseases advances studies of similar human disorders and enhances the utility of the dog as a system for studies of all aspects of cancer. Finally, we study behavior genetics, taking advantage of the nearly 350 breeds that exist worldwide, many with specific behaviors upon which human survival has been dependent.

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Primary Section

Section 26: Genetics

Secondary Section

Section 61: Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences