Andreas R. Pfenning, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in Computational Biology
Carnegie Mellon University

Andreas R. Pfenning is a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Computational Biology in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He also has a courtesy appointment in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon. Dr. Pfenning is a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, which brings together a diverse group of neuroscientists across different departments at Carnegie Mellon University. He lectures in the Carnegie Mellon–University of Pittsburgh Ph.D. program in computational biology.

Dr. Pfenning’s work has been published in Cell, PNAS and numerous other journals, with two recent first/co-first author articles in Science and one in Nature. Among other awards, his work was recognized by the Kavli Foundation blog as the “Biggest Science Story: Neuroscience” of 2014. His research has been publicized in such news outlets as NPR, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.

His neurogenomics laboratory uses an innovative combination of computational and experimental genomic approaches to study how genetic differences influence the brain and behavior. Within the human population, the laboratory is studying the genetic basis of Alzheimer’s disease and brain aging. Across species, the laboratory is studying how the genome evolved for speech and language production.

Dr. Pfenning completed a joint postdoctoral position with Prof. Manolis Kellis in computer science at MIT (CSAIL) and Prof. Jesse Gray in the Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School. During this time, his work showed that the immune system harbors a majority of genetic variants that influence Alzheimer’s disease predisposition. He also performed research on the mechanisms of gene regulation in response to neural activity.

Dr. Pfenning has a Ph.D. in computational biology and bioinformatics from Duke University, where he worked with Prof. Erich D. Jarvis in neurobiology and Prof. Alexander Hartemink in computer science. He studied how gene regulation occurs in the songbird brain during singing, and identified a set of genes that show convergent evolution between song-learning birds and humans. Dr. Pfenning, who grew up in Pittsburgh, obtained his undergraduate degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Funded Research

Project Description Researchers Funding
CIRCUITS: Interpreting Alzheimer’s Disease-Associated Genetic Variation at Enhancer Regions

Treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the greatest challenges we face in the coming years; the disease has the potential to have an enormous impact on human health. Despite its importance, there still are no highly effective treatments for AD, due in large part to a limited understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms. Our laboratory, as a member of CIRCUITS (Consortium to Infer Regulatory Circuits and to Uncover Innovative Therapeutic Strategies), aims to make progress toward a cure using genomic approaches.