David J. Galas, PhD

Senior Investigator

Lab Focus

Computational biology

Modifier genes

Genetic networks


PNRI mourns the loss of David J. Galas, PhD who passed away on May 27, 2023, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Dr. Galas was a world-renowned expert in molecular biology and genetics whose long and distinguished career led to contributions in the fields of physics, mathematics, and biology. While his past research included experimental work in several fields, his work in recent years focused on the application of mathematical and computational methods to solve complex biological and medical problems.

In 2012, Dr. Galas joined PNRI as a Senior Investigator where he pursued his work studying the role of non-coding RNAs in cell function regulation and intercellular communication. In addition to his research interests in basic biology, he actively pursued new applications of mathematics to better understand human genetics. His most recent work in this field was to develop a novel, information theory-based approach for identifying gene regulatory networks, modifier genes, and complex dependencies between genomic data. In David’s own words, “The tools we’ve developed enable researchers to find patterns in genetic data, allowing the discovery of genetic networks implicated in biological functions, leading us to better understand health and disease.”

Inspired to apply his novel computational approaches to find ways to improve the human condition, Dr. Galas, together with PNRI’s Senior Investigator Lisa Stubbs, PhD, recently initiated the Decoding Stress Study. The goal of the Decoding Stress Study is to pinpoint genes, networks, and pathways responsible for how we respond to chronic stress and, thus, identify how our genetics affect our risk for developing stress-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, depression, and anxiety. With PNRI’s support, Dr. Stubbs will continue to lead this project. “We are honored to continue pursuing David’s vision of using an individual’s unique genetic make-up to identify those at greatest risk of stress-related diseases, with the goal of developing tailored therapies to treat them. This is his legacy gift to all mankind,” says Dr. Stubbs.

“The tools we’ve developed enable researchers to find patterns in genetic data, allowing their discovery of genetic networks which Implicate biological functions, leading us to understand health and disease.”

David J. Galas, PhD

Senior Investigator


David J. Galas, PhD

David J. Galas, PhD, was Senior Investigator at PNRI, and a world-renowned expert in molecular biology and human genetics. He earned his PhD in physics from the University of California, Davis and held leadership positions at several top research institutions. Dr. Galas notably headed the Human Genome Project from 1990 to 1993, during his time as Director for Health and Environmental Research at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. His leadership in this work earned him the Computerworld Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. He went on to receive an endowed chair position as the Norris Professor of Applied Life Sciences at the Keck Graduate Institute and was honored as a lifetime associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He chaired the Board of the Directors at the Hertz Foundation from 2008-2022, when he was named Chairman Emeritus. As a Senior Investigator at PNRI, his research focused on computational methods for complex data analysis, genetics, and non-coding RNA—particularly, extra-cellular RNA. In 2022, Dr. Galas and PNRI’s Lisa Stubbs, PhD, launched the Decoding Stress Study, which aims to answer some of the biggest questions about the role that genetics play in determining how people respond to chronic stress.

Research Projects


Decoding Stress

Galas Lab is developing and applying innovative mathematical methods, providing new computational tools to seek out and validate genetic modifiers for disease susceptibility alleles in the Decoding Stress Study. Harnessing computational biology, this lab is examining genes associated with type 2 diabetes as an entry point of study in larger genetic databases on stress-related disorders.

David J. Galas, PhD
Awards & Honors


Honor: Smithsonian Institution – Computerworld Medal

2000 –2005

Honor: Endowed chair

Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences, Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Professor of Applied Life Sciences


Lifetime National Associate of the National Academy of Sciences


Chairman of the Board

Fannie and John Hertz Foundation