Steve Finkbeiner’s lab study how brain cells learn and remember, and what causes them to malfunction and die in disease. The long-term goal is to understand how neuronal activity leads to learning and memory. Memory defects occur in several neurological and psychiatric diseases, and the lab has developed animal or cell-based models of several of them, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and schizophrenia. The group has also developed state-of-the-art technologies to generate and analyze large troves of images and genetic data, including robotic microscopy and artificial intelligence.

Disease Areas

Alzheimer’s Disease
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Frontotemporal Dementia
Huntington’s Disease
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Parkinson’s Disease

Areas of Expertise

Artificial Intelligence
Disease Models
Genetic and Small Molecule Screening
Human Genetics
Robotic Microscopy
Stem Cells and iPS Cells
Working in the Finkbeiner lab

Lab Focus

Understanding the basic mechanisms by which cells mitigate stresses such as the protein misfolding involved in aging and disease.
Finding causes and treatments for Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, frontotemporal dementia, and schizophrenia.
Inventing and developing innovative technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, to accelerate the pace of science and the discovery of cures.

Research Impact

Finkbeiner’s lab strives to understand the neurobiology of disease well enough to design rational interventions and produce effective treatments. They bring human biology into the lab by combining human genomics and the creation of human models of disease based on iPS cells and other patient material. The limitations of conventional approaches led them to invent new tools, such as robotic microscopy, and to adapt artificial intelligence to unravel cause and effect in complex mechanisms and gain insights from data that elude comprehension by the unaided human brain.

The work has led to seminal findings for the field and promising new therapeutic approaches. In one instance, robotic microscopy helped resolve a decade-old controversy about the pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease. In another, new biosensor technology helped design neuroprotective compounds that cause cells to destroy disease-causing proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.


Professional Titles

Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes

Director, Center for Systems and Therapeutics, Gladstone Institutes

Director, Taube/Koret Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, Gladstone Institutes

Director, Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program, Gladstone Institutes

Investigator, Roddenberry Stem Cell Center, Gladstone Institutes

Professor, Neurology and Physiology, UC San Francisco


Steve Finkbeiner, MD, PhD, is the director of the Center for Systems and Therapeutics and a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes. In 2009, with support from Bay Area philanthropists, he established the Taube/Koret Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at Gladstone to accelerate the development of drug therapies for patients suffering from conditions such as Huntington’s disease. Finkbeiner is also the director of the Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program and an investigator in the Roddenberry Stem Cell Center at Gladstone. In addition, he is a professor of neurology and physiology at UC San Francisco (UCSF).

Finkbeiner earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College, and earned both an MD and a PhD in neuroscience from Yale University. He completed an internship in internal medicine and chief residency in neurology at UCSF, followed by a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Finkbeiner is an associate editor of the journal Autophagy and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Huntington’s Disease and BioMed Central. He has received numerous awards for his work and is a member of several scientific and professional societies, including the American Neurological Association, the Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Cell Biology, and the Biophysical Society.

His expertise encompasses neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, iPS cell modeling, human genetics, robotics, imaging, computational methods, and artificial intelligence. He is known for inventing robotic microscopy, a platform for performing high-throughput longitudinal single-cell analysis, and for a series of discoveries about the biology of disease made with this approach.

How Did You Get Your Start in Science?

“I fell in love with engineering playing with Lego, and my 8th grade science teacher took an interest in me, spurring my interests in science and medicine.”

Steve Finkbeiner, MD, PhD

Honors and Awards

2017 National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Award for Outstanding and Innovative Contributions to Neurological Disease Research

2017 Commitment to a Cure Award, ALS Association Golden West Chapter

2011 Award for Outstanding Research Achievement, Nature Biotechnology

2010 Thomson Reuters - The most cited primary research paper in Neuroscience and Behavior for the preceding 10-year period

2008 Annual Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award, Graduate Student Association, UC San Francisco

2008 Distinguished Leadership Award, Huntington’s Disease Society of America

2005 Therapeutics Initiative Award, Huntington’s Disease Society of America

2005 Taube Prize for Outstanding Work on Huntington’s Disease

2005 Lieberman Award for Outstanding Work in Huntington’s Disease

2001 W.M. Keck Research Excellence Award

2001 Klingenstein Award in Neuroscience

1999 Charles E. Culpepper Medical Scholar Award


More Publications


Steve Finkbeiner

Lab Members

Noura Al Bistami, PhD
Research Associate II
Naufa Amirani, c
Software Engineer II
Neha Arora
Research Associate III
Lise Barbe, PhD
Staff Research Scientist I
Bianca Barth
Research Associate III
Christina Buselli
Research Associate I
Christine Caneda
Senior Research Associate
Una Chan
Research Associate I
Melanie Cobb, PhD
Minnie Deng
Research Associate II
Lindsay Easter
Research Associate I
Lisa Elia, PhD
Scientific Program Leader II
Zohreh Faghihmonzavi, MS
Senior Research Associate
Vivek Gopal Ramaswamy, MS
Software Engineer II
Austin Holub, MS
Research Engineer I
Terry Huang
Research Associate I
Rajshri Iyer
Research Engineer I
Brenda Izabal
Lab Aide
Julia Kaye, PhD
Scientific Program Leader II
Stephanie Lam
Software Engineer II
Josh Lamstein, MS
Research Engineer III
Jen Leddy, MS
Senior Research Associate
Drew Linsley, PhD
Daniela Melandri, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Eric Mockler
Research Engineer I
Roma Moore
Research Engineer I
Wesley Robinson
Research Associate I
Gennadi Ryan
Student Intern
Karen Sachs
Kanchan Sarda, PhD
Senior Research Associate
Kaushik Sridhar, MS
Research Engineer II
Zachary Tokuno
Research Engineer II
Shijie Wang, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Annie Wang
Research Associate III
Stacia Wyman, PhD