Sharmila Banerjee Basu, Ph.D.
Dr. Basu is the Director of Autism Reading Room as well as the editor of its scientific content and a writer for its “Diagnosis,” "Therapy," and "Autism Over the Decades" sections. She earned her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Presidency College, Calcutta, and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland, where her thesis work focused on understanding the structure and functional properties of the antimicrobial peptides nisin and subtilin produced by food-grade lactic acid bacteria. Her postdoctoral work began at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where she studied the role of transcription factors in gene regulation in a mammalian context. As a staff scientist with the National Human Genome Research Institute, she used bioinformatics to study structure, function and evolution of homeodomain proteins with a focus on how mutations in these (and other) proteins contributed to human genetic disorders. She has published over 30 peer-reviewed research papers and three book chapters. In 2006, She founded MindSpec, a research organization that studies autism using integrative, computational approaches.
The focus of my research is to gain a fundamental understanding of the molecular events that lead to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. My specific interest is in establishing the contribution of genetics to these disorders. How does a particular genetic profile interact with environmental factors to develop a mental disorder? Towards this, we are building content-rich databases and novel computational tools for data mining, where the design of databases is rooted in the disease biology. Our ultimate goal is to integrate diverse pieces of molecular data with clinical information so that we can gain a systems-level understanding of a disease as complex as autism.
We released the first genetic database for autism, AutDB, licensed to the Simons Foundation as SFARI Gene (Basu, 2009). Under my leadership, we have released new features of SFARI Gene approximately every three months for the past three years. In 2009, my group developed the Animal Model module of SFARI Gene (Kumar, 2011) that serves as a comprehensive repository of animal models of autism. Two additional modules of SFARI gene, PIN (Protein Interaction) and CNV (Copy Number Variant) were released in 2011. My current research goal is to promote public understanding of autism research with our new science outreach website, Autism Reading Room.
I am well positioned to achieve this goal due to my extensive research background and abundant resources. In 2006, I founded MindSpec, a non-profit bioinformatics organization devoted to research on mental illnesses where I serve as the Chief Scientific Officer. My team includes experienced postdoctoral fellows, research associates, software engineers and senior consultants who work in a multi-disciplinary environment for problem solving.