July 12, 2009

Dr. Owen Rennert

One of the doctors Bertrand will be seeing on Tuesday at the NIH is Owen M. Rennert, M.D., and I couldn't be more excited. Dr. Rennert has served as the scientific director, in the NICHD Division of Intramural Research, since November 2000, and he leads both the Laboratory of Clinical Genomics and the Section on Developmental Genomics. He has also served as Acting Director of the Center for Mothers and Children in the NICHD.

As scientific director, Dr. Rennert oversees the research programs of 96 investigators and more than 400 trainees, organized around four thematic areas associated with human development:

  • Biology of cell fate
  • Biology of growth and development
  • Biology of reproduction
  • Biology of cognition and behavior
Within this framework are ten programs: in cell biophysics and chemistry, cell regulation and metabolism, and cell metabolism and biology; genomics of differentiation, developmental endocrinology and genetics, developmental immunology; reproductive sciences and medicine, perinatology; and developmental neuroscience and mechanics of motion.

A biochemical geneticist, Dr. Rennert works at the interface between biological and clinical research dealing with process of development/differentiation. His recent work in developmental genomics established a database of germ-cell genes. Unsupervised cluster analyses of the genes identified biological processes that occur preferentially at specific stages of spermatogenesis. His group also identified promoter modules that regulate stage-specific expression of genes and constructed signature networks of each cell stage that linked cell-specific gene candidates with neighboring genes, proteins, transcription factors, and small molecules. In addition to studying normal germ cell development, Dr. Rennert and his group investigated epigenetic changes associated with testicular germ cell tumor development and, using CpG island chips, examined changes in the global methylation pattern of testicular tumor cell lines and tumor tissues.

Dr. Rennert received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, and his M.D. from the University of Chicago School of Medicine, in addition to a master’s degree in biochemistry. He completed his pediatric residency training and a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at the University of Chicago. He is board certified in pediatrics, clinical genetics, and clinical biochemical genetics.

Dr. Rennert is author of more than 200 scientific publications. Among his scholarly activities, he has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Endocrine Genetics since 1990; the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation Board of Directors since 2002;and the selection committee for the Pediatric Scientist Development Program, also since 2002. In 2005, he became a member of the External Advisory Committee for the Center of Medical Genetics, Peking University.

Dr. Rennert’s awards include “1996 Top Doctor” and “1994 Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian magazine; Alumni Award for Distinguished Services, University of Chicago (1993); Clinical Scientist of the Year, American Association of Clinical Science (1978); and in 2005 Georgetown University’s Flame of Hope Award. Dr. Rennert served as chairman of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville and Georgetown University School of Medicine, where he is Professor Emeritus of pediatrics.

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