Wayne Frankel’s research at Columbia University is devoted to understanding the genetic basis of neurological disorders with an emphasis on epilepsy and closely related synaptic disorders that include seizures, autism and intellectual disability.
His Ph.D. was in genetics (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1987), and postdoctoral training in virology and genetics (Tufts University School of Medicine, 1987–1991). From 1992–2015, he led a research group at the Jackson Laboratory (JAX) engaged in development and the study of genetic mouse models for a variety of neurological disorders, with an emphasis on epilepsy. At JAX, he was also central in the leadership of several large initiatives, including as the principal investigator of the Neuroscience Mutagenesis Facility (2001–2006) and later as co-founder and supervisor of the Mouse Neurobehavioral Facility — the first of its kind at JAX. He joined the faculty at Columbia University in 2015 (Department of Genetics & Development; Institute for Genomic Medicine). Among his many extramural activities, he was founding editor-in-chief of PLOS Genetics, which quickly became one of the leading open-access research journals. At Columbia, he co-founded the first Columbia-wide Mouse Neurobehavioral Core and is the Institute for Genomic Medicine’s director of preclinical studies to provide oversight in mouse genetics, genomics and biology.
His laboratory’s research currently centers on modeling developmental epileptic encephalopathies (DEEs) in mice — a genetically heterogeneous collection of severe, intractable childhood neurodevelopmental disorders — using both knockin and knockout mouse models. His team is studying over a dozen different genetic models of DEE in collaboration with neurophysiologists and clinicians at Columbia and externally. The two major objectives of this work are to identify mechanisms that converge across different genetic etiologies and to advance treatments for these conditions by focusing on the development of genetic therapies.