Elissa J. Chesler, Ph.D.

Professor, The Ann Watson Symington Chair in Addiction Research and Senior Director, Integrative Data Science

Develops software tools and resources for multi-species data integration in the study of health and disease and researches the genetic and biological basis for relationships among behavioral traits including addiction and other behaviors.

My laboratory integrates quantitative genetics, bioinformatics and behavioral science to understand and identify the biological basis for the relationships among behavioral traits. We develop and apply cross-species genomic data integration, advanced computing methods, and novel high-precision, high-diversity mouse populations to find genes associated with a constellation of behavioral disorders and other complex traits. This integrative strategy enables us to relate mouse behavior to specific aspects of human disorders, to test the validity of behavioral classification schemes, and to find genes and genetic variants that influence behavior.

The tools and approaches we have devised are applicable to other common and rare diseases, and are part of an integrated suite of capabilities for biomedical researchers.

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Visit the Center for Systems Neurogenetics of Addiction

Grants, honors and accomplishments

Professional Activities:

  • 2005 UT-Knoxville Genome Science and Technology Computational Biology & Bioinformatics Task Force
  • 2009–2010 Society for Neuroscience, Neuroinformatics Committee
  • 2010–2013 International Behavioral and Neurogenetics Society (Executive Committee Member at Large)
  • 2014-present External Advisory Board, NIH NIDA P50 Center for GWAS in Outbred Rats
  • 2012-present Editorial Board, Genes, Brain, Behavior
  • 2012-present Editorial Board, Mammalian Genome
  • 6/17/2013 External Advisor to SYSGENET European Union COST consortium
  • 7/28/2013 NIH Big Data to Knowledge Workshop on Enhancing Training for Biomedical Big Data, Participant
  • 5/22/2014 NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Workshop on Challenges in Replication of GXE, Workshop Speaker
  • 2015–2017 International Behavioral and Neurogenetics Society (President)
  • 10/24/2015 Phenotype Research Coordination Network Workshop on the Integration of Animal Behavior Ontology and Neurobehavioral Ontology, Participant.
  • 2016 NIH National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Workgroup on Future Directions of Genomics

Extramural Research Support:

1 P50 DA039841-01 (Chesler) 08/15/16-04/30/21

NIH/NIDA $2,459,557

Center for Systems Neurogenetics of Addiction

The goal of this Center is to assess the impact of multiple, highly relevant behavioral and biological predictors of addiction using a deeply characterized mouse population. Five collaborative research projects supported by three research cores characterize the behavioral, genetic and genomic basis of predisposition to psychostimulant abuse. Pilot projects and outreach activities support opportunities for trainees and investigators to gain access to genetic tools, resources and methods in the study of the genetics of addiction.

5 R01 AA018776 Chesler (PI) 9/25/10-6/30/20


Data Structures, Algorithms and Tools for Ontological Discovery

The aims of this project are: 1) to perform large scale functional genomics data integration and data structures that more efficiently enable the use of databases to represent graphical network data; 2) to develop algorithms for the analysis of integrated gene centered data across species and experimental platforms to incorporate these developments into a Web-based software system; and 3) to use this tool to find genes underlying relationships between multiple abused substances and behaviors.

Role: Principal Investigator

1 R01 DA037927 (Chesler) 04/01/2015 03/31/2020


Discovery of Addiction Related Genes with Advanced Mouse Resources

The goal of this project is to identify biological mechanisms of addiction and predisposing novelty-seeking behavior by harnessing recent advances in mouse genetic resources, including the high precision Diversity Outbred (DO) mouse population, validation in genetically modified mice, gene expression quantitation through RNA sequence analysis, and computational and statistical methods in systems genetics.

5 R01 DA028420-12 Bogue (PI) 07/01/15-04/30/20


Mouse Phenome Project

The Mouse Phenome Database (MPD; phenome.jax.org) is a repository of expertly curated, highly integrated and diverse mouse phenotype data, including significant amounts of data relevant to alcoholism, addiction, neurobehavioral processes, and other physiological domains. Goals for this cycle are to upgrade the MPD system and acquire new data and data types; incorporate evolving technologies for archiving, integrating, and analyzing data; expand activities that promote data reproducibility within and across resources; and ensure interoperability of MPD with other public databases.

Role: Co-Investigator

2 R13 DA032192 Chesler (PI) 7/1/10-6/30/20


Workshop on the Genetics of Addiction

The goal of the annual workshop on the Genetics of Addiction proposed in this application is to provide students an opportunity to learn about genetic applications and approaches to drug addiction research.

Role: Principal Investigator

1 UM1 OD02322-06 Braun/Murray/Svenson (PI) 9/16/11-7/31/21


The Jackson Laboratory KOMP2 Phenotyping Center

The specific goal of this project is to expand the JAX KOMP2 Center to produce and phenotype 1,500 novel lines of knockout mice on an isogenic C57BL/6N background, and to share these animal resources and data with the scientific community.

Role: Co-Investigator

1 U54 OD020351-01 Burgess (PI)

The Jackson Laboratory Center for Precision Genetics: From New Models to Novel Therapeutics.

The goal of the Center is to develop and disseminate new, precise animal models of incurable and genetically complex human diseases. Each of the center’s projects address intractable or incurable diseases linked by genetic complexity, molecular genetic data and/or "humanization" that represent diverse stages of preclinical development. The JCPG will: Aim 1) Align investigator-initiated disease model research projects with institution-wide support to create efficient and goal-oriented preclinical pipelines; Aim 2) Use heuristic program development in the pilot center research projects and cores to position JAX to be a fully functional center in five years, while nevertheles achieving tangible outcomes during the pilot period; Aim 3) Embrace both realistic, cutting-edge technological platforms and ambitious high-risk, high-reward platforms as required to advance paths to therapies for heretofore incurable diseases; and Aim 4) Through JAX's many inter-institutional collaborations, identify and engage key clinical, foundation and corporate partners, who share its vision both for specific disease objectives, to help navigate larger center goals. Ultimately, the JCPG will generate new disease modeling processes and pipelines, data resources, research results and models that will be swiftly shared through JAX's proven dissemination pipelines to accelerate translation to medical benefit. Dr. Chesler is a member of the bioinformatics core, led by Dr. Judith A. Blake, which serves the center’s projects through data analysis, integration and dissemination for the discovery and characterization of these models.

Role: Co-Investigator