Center for Biomarker Research & Precision Medicine School of Pharmacy


BPM Team members

Center Members

Our program aims to alleviate the tremendous personal, familial, and societal burden of mental illness and substance use disorders by using state-of-the-art technologies to identify molecular markers that can be used to develop new medications and tailor treatment to individual patients.

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Key investigators

Edwin van den Oord headshot
Edwin van den Oord (PhD) Professor and Director

PhD Erasmus University Rotterdam 1993 - Dr. Van den Oord was trained in statistics and psychiatric genetics. Among the projects he is leading are efforts to find methylation markers for predicting chronic depression and studying the health consequences of childhood adversity. At BPM, Dr. Van den Oord has the main responsibility for developing novel statistical and computational methods and implementing these methods in user-friendly software that can also be run efficiently on high performance computing clusters. Examples include methods to create algorithms for predicting drug response, to integrate “omic” data across biomarker platforms, and to derive biological meaning from all the results.

Karolina Aberg headshot
Karolina Aberg (PhD) Associate Professor and Associate Director

PhD Uppsala University, Sweden, 2005 – Dr. Aberg was trained in medical science and biology with focus on psychiatric genetics. Her major ongoing projects include studies of post-mortem brain samples and neonatal blood samples to study schizophrenia disease etiology and predict schizophrenia risk later in life, as well as studies on how to better predict suicide risks among patients suffering from psychiatric disorders. Aberg heads the BPM genomics and epigenomics laboratory where large-scale omic data is generated and improved lab-technical protocols for omic, in particular epigenomic, applications are developed.

Robin F Chan headshot
Robin F Chan (PhD) Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD Virginia Commonwealth University, 2017 - Dr. Chan’s research interests are neuroscience, addiction, and epigenetics. A primary goal of his research is to bridge the gap between large-scale omics studies and focused functional experiments to improve understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders. Current projects include, optimization and development of new laboratory assays, construction of wet-lab and bioinformatic approaches to characterize sub-types of cells in the brain, and using cutting-edge epigenetic editing tools to probe the biological effects of methylation markers linked to disease.

The BPM Team

Lin Y Xie headshot
Lin Y. Xie (MS) Laboratory Specialist, Advanced

MS Virginia Commonwealth University, 20XX - Xie has more than 20 years of experience from genetic and epigenetics laboratories in the US including the Massachusetts General Hospital and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She has extensive expertise in molecular genetics methodology development with in depth training in next-generation sequencing. of the work going on in the BPM genomics and epigenomics laboratory. Of critical importance are her contributions to advanced lab-technical protocol development in epigenetics.

Min Zhao headshot
Min Zhao (DDS) Laboratory Specialist, Advanced

DDS Zhejiang Medical University, 1988 - Zhao has more than 15 years of experience in molecular and cell biology from laboratories in the US including Vanderbilt University. Dr. Zhao has a rigorous experience in general molecular techniques and next-generation sequencing. Utilizing advanced liquid handling robotics she performs sample preparation, library construction and sequencing for BPM’s large scale ”omic” projects.

Katrina Davis headshot
Katrina Davis (MA) Research Administration

MA from American University, DC, 2006. Davis has several years of experience with academic administration in general and with research administration in particular. A critical component of Davis’ work involves submitting and monitoring applications to sample and data repositories, material transfer agreements and IRB applications, as well as to assist with publication submissions. Furthermore, Davis supports the BPM laboratory by purchasing reagents and consumables, and scheduling instrument service and preventive maintenance of the laboratory equipment.

Vanessa Ventura headshot
Vanessa Ventura Student/Laboratory assistant

Ventura is seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Forensic Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, with anticipated graduation in May 2019. Through support from Federal funding to Ventura, she develops her scientific knowledge and research know-how by shadowing and assisting advanced laboratory specialists in their research work. This research experience makes a critical contribution towards her future career goal of becoming a medical doctor.

Lyon van den Oord headshot
Lyon van den Oord Creative developer

BFA Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD 2018 - Lyon is a graphic designer with 10 years of experience in brand identity, website design, motion graphics, and video production. As the BPM creative developer, Lyon is responsible for the design of the website, presentations, and promotional materials.

Visiting investigators


Jerry Guintivano (Ph.D.), Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of North Carolina, Department of Psychiatry, Sullivan Lab


Laura Han, Ph.D Candidate, VU University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, Mental Healthcare Center GGZinGeest

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Affiliate Investigators

Javier González Maeso headshot
Javier González Maeso (PhD) Associate Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Physiology and Biophysics

PhD University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain, 2001 — Dr. González-Maeso is interested in the structure, function and regulation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), their interacting proteins, and psychiatric disease associations, such as schizophrenia and depression. In addition, his laboratory aims to understand the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms by which environmental factors and chronic drug exposure alter behavior. His investigation is based on the combination of interdisciplinary approaches ranging from computer structural modeling and molecular pharmacology to neurochemistry, epigenetics, mouse behavioral assays relevant to psychiatric disorders, and functional testing in postmortem human brain samples. Ultimately, his goal is to use this basic knowledge to develop new approaches for treatment and prevention of psychiatric disorders.

Joseph McClay headshot
Joseph McClay (PhD) Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy,
Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcome Sciences

PhD King’s College London, 2003 - Dr. McClay was trained in complex trait genetics, with a focus on behavioral disorders and response to central nervous system drug therapies. His translational research program continues to focus on these areas. Current projects include 1) mapping genetic regulatory networks for schizophrenia and depression, 2) characterizing novel pharmacogenes associated with antipsychotic drug response, and 3) testing genetic regulatory influences on pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic processes.

Patrick Beardsley headshot
Patrick Beardsley (PhD) Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology,

PhD University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 1982, Dr. Beardsley was trained as a behavioral pharmacologist. His research focuses on the development of medications for treating drug abuse and other CNS disorders, as well as evaluating drugs for their abuse-related properties. For this research, he uses a broad range of in vivo pharmacological procedures to identify the behavioral effects of drugs and their mechanisms of action that may be common with drugs of abuse or may block or attenuate the abuse-related effects of abused drugs. Dr. Beardsley is also active in the regulatory control of drugs of abuse and is a member of the Expert Committee on Drug Abuse for the World Health Organization.

Peter Hamilton
Peter Hamilton (PhD) Assistant Professor, School of Medicine,
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology

PhD Vanderbilt University, 2014 – Dr. Hamilton is a molecular neurobiologist with a training emphasis in protein biophysics and chromatin biology. His laboratory’s research focuses exploring the molecular mechanisms of addiction and depression through the use of rodent models to understand how chronic exposure to drugs of abuse and stress changes gene expression and epigenetic landscape within the brain’s limbic regions. Dr. Hamilton’s group specializes in the design, synthesis, and delivery of neuroepigenetic editing tools to discrete brain regions within awake and behaving rodents. DNA-locus targeted epigenetic/transcriptional editing delivers a single addiction- or depression-associated molecular alteration within an intact nervous system, providing insights into its causal contribution to neuropsychiatric syndrome pathogenesis, and guiding the development of more efficacious addiction and depression pharmacotherapies.

Research Partners


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