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PNRI mourns the loss of David J. Galas, PhD, who passed away in 2023 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Dr. Galas was an 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 at PNRI focused on the application of mathematical and computational methods to solve complex biological and medical problems.

PNRI’s Galas Lab developed innovative computational methods to better understand how genes interact with one another to control human biology. Researchers in this lab centered their work on how genes regulate one another to keep us healthy, providing opportunities to discover new ways to address disease prevention, detection, and treatment.

The Galas and Stubbs Labs joined forces to launch the Decoding Stress Study, a multi-year project studying genetic patterns in people exposed to chronic stress. Stress is linked to conditions such as anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Identifying genetic factors that contribute to resilience or susceptibility to stress-related diseases can dramatically improve health outcomes for those with chronic stress.

Dr. Galas credited leveraging the power of genetic databases being assembled around the world with enabling his team to identify patterns of variants in genes believed to be involved in developing a particular disease. The availability of these data has already yielded new targets for studying biological functions controlled by complex genetic interactions.

A crucial part of this work is identifying similar relationships in the genes of patients with chronic stress disorders participating in the Decoding Stress Study, which Dr. Galas said, “opens the door to potential therapeutics or interventions that could prevent the health effects of stress.” 

The ultimate goal of this study is to provide physicians with the tools to identify those people at greatest risk for developing a chronic stress disorder and then tailor a treatment specific to their risk. The Stubbs Lab will continue this study in honor of Dr. Galas.