Joel Bader

Joel S. Bader, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, uses engineering-based mathematical, computational, and high-throughput methods to study biomedical systems. Bader is Interim Director of the High-Throughput Biology Center at the School of Medicine, has a secondary appointment in the Department of Computer Science, and is a member of the Institute of Computational Medicine (School of Engineering) and the Institute of Genetic Medicine (School of Medicine).

Bader’s research interest is the relationship between genotype, the DNA sequence that encodes life’s information, and phenotype, a living system’s observable properties. Applications are to human disease, primarily complex genetic disorders and cancer, and to designed synthetic systems. The Human Genome Project, which provided a reference sequence of the 3 billion DNA letters that are the instructions for human life, also identified heritable genetic variants that influence disease risk. Mutations that arise in individual cells similarly can lead to cancer and other diseases. Bader develops new computational methods and joint wet-lab approaches to define how inborn genetic variants and acquired mutations lead to disease, with the goal of developing new therapies.

Bader leads the Johns Hopkins Cancer Target Discovery and Development (CTD2) Center, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute to identify new targets for metastatic breast cancer. His study is recruiting women receiving breast cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital to donate biological specimens that will help reveal the molecular drivers of tumor invasion and metastasis. These phenotypes, rather than cell proliferation in the primary tumor, are the main cause of breast cancer mortality.

In synthetic biology, Bader’s lab develops methods for designing, building, testing, and analyzing DNA sequences that encode genes, pathways, chromosomes, and entire genomes. He is the computational leader of the international Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0 (Sc2.0) project, whose aim is to create a yeast cell with a synthetic genome. The milestone of synthesizing 6 of the 16 yeast chromosomes was highlighted in a series of 7 papers in the March 10, 2017, issue of the journal Science.Bader’s lab also develops technologies for biosafety and biosecurity, preventing escape of engineered life and identifying evidence of genetic engineering in genetic sequence data.

Bader developed and teaches a core course in systems biology in the BME undergraduate program and has also been faculty for courses in the Department of Applied Math and Statistics and the Department of Biology. He is a faculty advisor to the Tau Beta Pi Maryland Alpha Chapter at Johns Hopkins. Bader is a member of the Climate, Culture, and Campus Experience Subcommittee of the Homewood Council on Inclusive Excellence and has served on the University-wide Library Advisory Council. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE); a member of the NIH Genomics, Computational Biology and Technology (GCAT) study section; and Deputy Editor of PLOS Computational Biology.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Bader was Director of Bioinformatics at CuraGen Corp., where he worked from 1995-2003 and co-invented the 454 Genome Sequencer, the first next-generation DNA sequencer to reach the market.

Bader received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Lehigh University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was an NSF Pre-Doctoral Fellow. He did postdoctoral research at Columbia University. He joined the faculty of the Whiting School of Engineering as an assistant professor in 2003, which has been his academic home ever after.