Christa Lese Martin, PhD, FACMG

The pace of technology used in identifying genomic variants (changes in DNA) has been increasing at a rapid rate, and the career of Christa Lese Martin has been swept along with the improving technology. Martin’s postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago began by using Giemsa banding, or G-banding, to look at abnormalities in chromosomes. G-banding is a method that gives each chromosome a unique banding pattern and allows differences from what is normal to be detected. Newer technologies using DNA-based probes, called chromosomal microarrays, that Martin helped develop,  allowed researchers to look along the length of every chromosome for abnormalities, much like G-banding, but at a much higher resolution; a significant percentage of abnormalities could be detected that were not detectable by G-banding. As Martin says, “This rapid evolution was where my interest in technology development began, and we wanted to discover better ways to continue to identify these chromosome abnormalities from a research and clinical perspective.”

Chromosomal microarrays have allowed researchers such as Martin to identify many new genomic variants and syndromes. Consequently, Martin has worked towards the development of a clinical genomics database to share information on these genomic variants and help inform better clinical care. This project stems from her work (in conjunction with David Ledbetter, PhD, Geisinger’s Chief Scientific Officer) with the International Standards for Cytogenomic Arrays (ISCA) Consortium. They launched a project to create a database for clinical and research purposes that collects CNV data in a de-identified way, but that encourages uniformity in terms of interpreting results across different clinical laboratories. This database is particularly significant for researchers and clinicians working with patients who have rare CNVs; these single cases often don’t make it into the scientific literature, so this database allows clinicians and researchers to share data they might not otherwise have known about. NIH has developed a new database, ClinVar, based on this original CNV database, which now includes other types of DNA sequence variants. As Martin describes it, “Our ultimate goal is to improve data sharing among laboratories and clinicians to guide clinical interpretation of genomic variation–something that is becoming a part of medical practice every day.” In 2014, Martin, along with other researchers, launched GenomeConnect to enable patients to contribute their data to this database and engage them in the data sharing process. 

Erin Riggs, MS, LGC

Erin Rooney Riggs is a certified genetic counselor.  She received her Master's degree in Genetic Counseling at Northwestern University in 2007, and started her career as a clinical genetic counselor and research coordinator at Emory University.  She worked at Geisinger from 2013-2017 as a coordinator for the Clinical Genome Resource (www.clinicalgenome.org). Erin continues her work with ClinGen and is an assistant professor at Geisinger's Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute.

 

 

 

Juliann Savatt, MS, LGC

Juliann Savatt received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from UNC Greensboro in 2015. She is a board certified and licensed genetic counselor who has served patients in the Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute and Cancer Genetics Clinic in Pennsylvania. In terms of her research interests, she is motivated to empower patients to be active partners in genomic discovery and is working towards that goal through being a part of the GenomeConnect team. 

 

 

Danielle Azzariti, MS, LGC

Danielle Azzariti is a certified and licensed genetic counselor.  She trained at Brandeis University and has been working as a genetic counselor in the Boston area since 2009. She started her career as a clinical genetic counselor and research coordinator for the Massachusetts General Hospital Neurogenetics Program. She has been working at the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners HealthCare Personalized Medicine since 2013 as a coordinator for the Clinical Genome Resource (www.clinicalgenome.org) and Matchmaker Exchange.  

 

Alexis Heidelbaugh, ScM

Alexis graduated from Philadelphia University (now Thomas Jefferson University) in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Pre-Medical Studies and minor concentration in Genetics. She completed a postbaccalaureate research fellowship at the National Human Genome Research Institute focusing on patients’ experiences receiving genomic sequencing results and participating in genomics research. She received a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Johns Hopkins University/National Institutes of Health in 2020. Alexis started her career at Geisinger and works as a genetic counselor and research coordinator in Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute. Alexis is interested in supporting families through diagnostic odysseys and the changing landscape of genomic information. 

 

Taylor Bingaman, BS

Taylor Bingaman earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Susquehanna University in 2018. Taylor currently works as a genomic medicine assistant at Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute in Lewisburg, PA. In addition to working as a member of the GenomeConnect team, she also assists genetic counselors in the clinical setting and coordinates gene curation expert panels and neurodevelopmental working groups for the Clinical Genome Resource. 

 

Molly Good, B.S.

Molly Good earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2020. Molly currently works as a genetic counseling assistant at Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Institute in Lewisburg, PA. In addition to working as part of the GenomeConnect team, she also assists genetic counselors in the clinical setting and coordinates CNV and dosage sensitivity expert panels and working groups for the Clinical Genome Resource. 

 

Lianna Paul, BS

Lianna graduated from Duquesne University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a minor in Biochemistry. She worked in a clinical laboratory in Pittsburgh from 2016-2019. Lianna joined Geisinger’s Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute in Lewisburg as a Genetic Counseling Assistant in 2020. In this role, she contributes to GenomeConnect while also coordinating variant curation expert panels for the Clinical Genome Resource and supporting genetic counselors in the clinic.