Dan Goldowitz received his PhD in Psychobiology at the University of California at Irvine with a thesis that focused on the plasticity of the adult central nervous in response to lesions. His subsequent postdoctoral work at Harvard Children’s Hospital in Boston, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City was in the development of the nervous system. His first position was as an assistant professorship at Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia. Using approaches that were relatively novel to the study of the brain he pioneered approaches to ascertain the function of genes in brain and behaviour.
He moved to the University of Tennessee Health Science Centre (UTHSC) in Memphis and was a leading force in organizing researchers across the State of Tennessee in forming a collaborative to use the mouse as a model organism to identify the function of the genes that were just being uncovered with the human genome project. The Tennessee Mouse Genome Consortium was the result of these efforts and this collaborative won one of three US National Institute’s of Health (NIH) awards (amounting to about US$13,000,000 over 5 years with D. Goldowitz as the Principal Investigator) to understand the role of genes in the function of the brain. This success led the University of Tennessee system to create a US$6,000,000 in a program to fund a Centre of Excellence in Genomics and Bioinformatics proposed by Goldowitz. He also worked with other individuals at UTHSC to obtain NIH funding for projects to bring science education to the K-12 grades. He was awarded an endowed chair of Neurosciences at UTHSC.
These efforts have resulted in national and international collaborations that Dan brought to Canada (the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute at UBC). He currently holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. He maintains strong NIH- , CIHR- and foundation-funded research programs in the genetics of brain development and function. After a bit more than one year in Canada the call for proposals from the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) was published. A survey of the research landscape indicated that Canada had some incredible strength in brain development, both clinically and in the basic sciences, but that they were not united in a way that could bring a synergy that seemed possible. From this as a vantage point, and with a focus of creating a marriage between the clinical and basic sciences, Goldowitz led a successful application to be one of the federally funded NCEs, NeuroDevNet [recently rebranded as Kids Brain Health (KBHN) Network], currently in its second funding cycle with Goldowitz as the Scientific Director.
More recently, Goldowitz was a part of a successful application to CIHR under Canada’s Strategies for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) witha mandate to establish a chronic disease network focused neurodevelopmental disabilities. CHILD-BRIGHT (Child Health Innovations Limiting Disability-Brain Research Improving Growth Health Trajectories) is a national network that aims to improve life outcomes for children with brain-based developmental disabilities and their families. Within this Network, Goldowitz leads the Training Core which is tasked with developing the training program for multiple stakeholder groups (patients/families, health care providers, researchers, and policy makers).
Thoughts on his research
Illness does not start with symptoms, it starts with a biological event that triggers the path to disease. For many illnesses that event happens long before birth.
Dr. Goldowitz studies how genetic signals involved in the early development of the nervous system can cause neurodegenerative disease and brain disorders in children and adults. By understanding how the brain develops and is built, he will also be able understand how brain disorders develop.
“I am interested in how to put the brain together,” says Dr. Goldowitz. “By putting it together you come out with insights that you couldn’t achieve any other way.”
A major focus of his work is the application of molecular and bioinformatic technologies to study the entire gene regulatory network of the cerebellum, which is an area of the brain that is linked to autism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and other brain disorders.
“For the ﬁrst time in the mammalian nervous system we will be able to come up with a blueprint for how to make a part of the brain,” explains Dr. Goldowitz.
And once he understands how to build it, researchers will be a lot closer to being able to ﬁx it.
Scientific Director, NeuroDevNet (funded by Networks of Centres of Excellence) – 2009 ~ 2014, 2014 – 2019
President, International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society – 2007
Canadian Research Council Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics – 2007 – 2014, 2014 – 2021