About Greg Cooper
Greg Cooper, PhD
Location: 601 Genome Way, Huntsville, AL 35806
Greg Cooper, PhD
Greg Cooper, PhD, calls himself “quantitatively inclined.” So as a faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Cooper is at home with genomics — the intersection of science and math.
Cooper’s research specializes in evolutionary and functional annotation of the genome. For example, in one strategy he compares the human genome to other mammals to find out which sites might be conserved — or kept the same — across different species. If a region in the human genome is the same as other mammals, that similarity could be an indicator that those sites are important to our health and prevented from changing by natural selection.
“Looking at genetics through an evolutionary lens is really powerful because evolution doesn’t care what the molecular activity is,” Cooper says. “Evolution only cares about what the physical trait is. And that’s what we care about.”
Cooper cares about those physical traits because his research also looks at direct disease applications, especially conditions that involve intellectual disability and other developmental problems that affect children.
Often, Cooper says, in children with developmental delays who are born to unaffected parents, the child’s condition is the result of a genetic change that happened during egg or sperm formation. In those cases, Cooper can subtract the parents’ genetic information from the child’s. He is left with the changes that are prime suspects for causing the child’s symptoms.
Cooper came to HudsonAlpha in 2010 after receiving his PhD in genetics from Stanford University and finishing postdoctoral work at the University of Washington in Seattle. He never wanted to be a clinician, but he is excited to see his research applied to human health.
“It’s thrilling,” he says, “to be able to say that basic research has now led to the ability to take a genome, extract something useful out of it and find a genetic variant that causes somebody to be sick.”