Ethan Bier is a professor in the section of Cell and Developmental Biology at UC San Diego. During the past 25 years at UCSD Dr. Bier has studied basic developmental patterning processes that have been highly conserved during evolution such as how secreted morphogen proteins subdivide the dorsal-ventral axis of the fruit fly embryo into neural versus epidermal regions and how such processes result in the formation of sharp boundaries during development of the wing.
The Bier lab has also used fruit flies to study mechanisms of human disease, focusing on understanding the mechanisms by which bacterial toxins contribute to breaching host barriers. Thus, two toxins produced by anthrax bacteria trigger potentially fatal vascular leakage while cholera toxin leads to breakdown of the intestinal barrier leading to acute life-threatening diarrhea. These findings suggest possible therapeutic approaches to combat anthrax and cholera as well as a variety of inflammatory diseases such as IBD and asthma, which also involve barrier dysfunction.
Most recently, the Bier lab has discovered a novel genetic method referred to as active genetics which allows parents to transmit a desired trait to nearly all their offspring rather than to only 50% of their progeny as occurs with traditional Mendelian inheritance. Active genetics promises to revolutionize control of vector borne diseases (e.g., malaria) and pests and to greatly accelerate genetic manipulation of organisms for medical and agricultural research.
Dr. Bier graduated Phi Beta Kappa as a Regents Scholar from UCSD in 1978 with degrees in Biology and Mathematics. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School on regulation of immune genes in Dr. Allan Maxam’s laboratory from 1978-1985. He did his postdoctoral studies on development of the nervous system at UCSD with Drs. Lily and Yuh Nung Jan (1985-90) and then assumed a faculty position at UCSD in 1990. He is an Alfred P. Sloan and Basil O’Connor Scholar and an Allen Distinguished Investigator.