Katie Pollard and her team develop statistical and computational methods to compare genomes and use the differences to decode how genomes work. Their analyses of massive sets of genomic and epigenomic data include investigating human genetic variation, understanding what makes humans unique compared to other species, and characterizing the genomic diversity of the human microbiome, the group of bacteria that populate our digestive system and other body sites. This evolutionary focus, coupled with rigorous statistical methods and bioinformatics tool development, gives the lab a unique perspective on human health and disease.
Areas of Expertise
Pollard and her team pioneered a statistical approach to identify the fastest-evolving regions of the human genome, known as Human Accelerated Regions (HARs). They showed that many of these correspond to non-coding sequences regulating gene expression, also known as enhancers. Her lab is leveraging this information to identify enhancers important for evolution or for the appearance of diseases. These studies have generated research tools for studying human disease and will eventually yield novel therapeutic targets.
Pollard has also designed metagenomic-based methods to study the human microbiome and other microbial communities at the resolution of individual genes and genetic mutations. From these studies, novel insight will arise into the relationship of the microbiome to health and disease, setting the stage for using metagenomics in precision medicine.
The Pollard lab’s open-source code for gene expression analysis, detecting evolutionary conservation and acceleration, and quantifying genetic changes in the human microbiome is used in thousands of labs and classrooms.
Director, Gladstone Institute of Data Science and Biotechnology
Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes
Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UC San Francisco
Director, Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program, UC San Francisco
Investigator, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub
Katie Pollard earned her BA at Pomona College and her master’s degree and PhD in biostatistics from UC Berkeley. At Berkeley, she developed computationally intensive statistical methods for the analysis of microarray data with applications in cancer biology. She implemented these approaches in Bioconductor, an open-source software program used with high-throughput genomic data. As a comparative genomics postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Cruz, Pollard participated in the Chimpanzee Genome Project and used this sequence to identify the fastest-evolving regions in the human genome, known as Human Accelerated Regions.
Before joining Gladstone, Pollard was an assistant professor in the Genome Center and Department of Statistics at UC Davis. Pollard is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. In 2018, she became the founding director of the Gladstone Institute of Biotechnology and Data Science. Pollard is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Statistical Association, and the International Society for Computational Biology.
“We are excited about bringing computational biology to Gladstone and incorporating world-class experimental biology into our research program.”
Honors and Awards
2022 Elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine
2018 Named one of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s 75 Most Influential Alumni
2018 Women Who Lead in the Life Sciences, SF Business Times
2017 Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator
2013 Fellow, California Academy of Sciences
2013 Alumna of the Year, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley
2013 Best Scientific Visualizations of 2013, Wired Magazine
2008 Sloan Research Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
2007 Faculty Development Award, UC Davis
2003 Evelyn Fix Memorial Prize, Chin Long Chiang Biostatistics Student of the Year, UC Berkeley
1998 Berkeley Fellowship, UC Berkeley
1996 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Watson Foundation
1995 Valedictorian, High Scholarship Prize, Math Prize, Anthropology Prize, Phi Beta Kappa Award, Pomona College
1993 Sophomore Math Prize, Pomona College