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Vincenzo A. Gennarino, PhD


Assistant Professor

Departments of Genetics & Development,

Pediatrics and Neurology

Columbia University Medical Center


I grew up in the beautiful city of Palermo, in southern Italy. I used to spend hours exploring the countryside and observing animal life. I was curious about everything then, and I still am.

During my doctoral studies at the TIGEM in Italy, in the lab of Sandro Banfi, my first publication was in the microRNA field. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small molecules that regulate the function of most human genes; the challenge has been to identify each miRNA’s set of target genes. Various bioinformatic methods had been tried, but each approach reveals a different set of targets for a given microRNA. I took a different tack: I hypothesized that the target genes of a given miRNA are likely to belong to the same biological pathway and therefore to be co-expressed. This basic idea led me to develop HOCTAR (Genome Research, 2009) and then the more refined CoMeTa (Genome Research, 2012), whose prediction accuracy reaches nearly 100%, as calculated by analysis of previously characterized human miRNAs. CoMeTa was the first tool to infer the biological pathways of each human miRNA based on the identification of its set of target genes. Both tools led to the discovery of the function of miR-128, which controls the master gene TFEB (Science, 2009).


For my postdoctoral work I wanted to bring my background in bioinformatics and RNA biology to bear on problems in neuroscience, so I joined the lab of Huda Zoghbi. I studied the regulation of the epigenetic factor MECP2 during neurodevelopment (Genes & Development, 2013), the post-translational modification of a neurodegenerative disease protein, Ataxin1 (Cell, 2015 and 2018), and alternative polyadenylation (eLife, 2015). My work garnered several fellowship and awards from the National Ataxia Foundation, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Paul Marks Scholar Award, and recently from the NINDS/NIH (CMND).

Read the article featuring my journey in Generations: The Official publication of the
National Ataxia Foundation, National Ataxia Foundation Volume 46, Number 2
Summer 2018 page 21. Title “Researching Ataxia with Passion, Dr. Vincenzo
Alessandro Gennarino’s Journey

To know more about me read the article featuring my career in Genes to Genomes: a blog from the Genetics Society of America, May 28. Title "Vincenzo Alessandro Gennarino on curiosity, hard work, and passion for helping others".

Honors & Awards

Paul Marks Scholar Program Award. Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. (2018).

Young Investigator Research Award. The National Ataxia Foundation. (2017 $2018).

NARSAD Young Investigator Award. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. (2018).

Best Speaker Prize, 6th Ataxia Investigators Meeting (AIM). (2016).

Travel Grant "Hot Chair" Award as invited speaker to attend the 6th Ataxia Investigator Meeting (AIM). (2016).

First prize, "Best Paper" in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine. (2016).

Winner, "Scientific Storytelling" Pediatric Research & Fellows' Symposium, Department of Pediatrics, Texas Children's Hospital. (2015).

Received National Scientific Qualification as Associate Professor in Experimental Biology, Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR). (2012).

Young speaker special selection invitation to Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology. (2009).

Early Researcher Career Development Award provided by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) at the University of Milan. (2006 & 2007).

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