Q&A with the new Editor-in-Chief of Genetics Research, Marc Tischkowitz
What do you think is distinctive about Genetics Research?
It is one of the oldest genetics journals, having been founded only a few years after the discovery of DNA and some very famous geneticists have published in it. I would like to build on this rich heritage and transform it into a dynamic and reactive journal, more in keeping with the rapid pace of discovery in today’s world.
What are some of the challenges facing the field today?
Over the last 60 years genetics has evolved from a relatively obscure area to a central tenet of modern day biology and now encompasses a multitude of different fields. It is impossible for any one person to keep up with this so we will rely heavily on the combined expertise of a diverse and experienced Editorial Board
In what new directions is the field going? Which direction do you think it should go?
In my own field we are in the middle of a high throughput sequencing revolution which will have a massive impact on how we deliver health care over the next 10-20 years. I don’t think it will be long before all babies will have a WGS at birth (for a couple of hundred dollars) which will be stored on their electronic health record to be selectively interrogated by their clinician when needed for prevention, diagnosis or treatment at various stages in their lives. This, of course, has massive ramifications for society, for which we are woefully under-prepared. The average man or woman in the street has very little understanding of the impact this will have, as do most health care professionals.
What first attracted you to genetics?
When I went to medical school there was virtually no genetics on the curriculum, but I was fortunate enough to take a year out and do an intercalated degree in molecular biology. At the time PCR had only recently been discovered and there was a tangible buzz in the field, as researchers realised what a game changer this technique would be. The completion of the first human genome was another massive breakthrough and we have been riding on the crest of the next generation sequencing revolution since the mid-2000s. I feel very privileged to be working during such an exciting time and never fail to be impressed by the power of what we can do now compared to ten or even five years ago.
Why should authors publish in Genetics Research?
Genetics Research has a rich heritage, and being a Press journal it comes from a fine pedigree. We have started the process of reinvigorating the journal by making it Open Access and we will make it dynamic and proactive in keeping with the rapid pace of events in today’s world. Having published many papers myself I know how frustration the experience can be sometimes but we will do our best to serve the community by making fast decisions and have clear, open lines of communication. We will capitalise on the resources available to us as a Press journal, in particular the use of social media to publicise key papers.
What is your favourite gene?
That is an easy one for me, it must be PALB2, which you could say is the third most important hereditary breast cancer gene after BRCA1 and BRCA2. I have been studying it since its discovery in 2006 and in 2009 I was one of the founding members of the PALB2 Interest Group, which brings researchers and clinicians together to study all aspects of the gene. We meet every year at the ASHG conference and now have over 200 members.
Who is your favourite geneticist?
I am fortunate enough to work in a field full of talented people who are enthusiastic and collaborative. This makes it hard to pick one person but, if pushed I would say Henry Lynch (of Lynch Syndrome fame), one of the founding fathers of cancer genetics whose showed great foresight in realising the importance of careful phenotyping in cancer families.
On a personal note I owe a debt of gratitude to the eminent British clinical geneticist, Sir Peter Harper, with whom I authored my first ever publication (a letter on an interesting cancer family) in 1998. Having had an interest in oncology I was keen to get into cancer genetics and Peter helped point me in the right directions at an early stage in my career.
Marc is on Twitter at @tischkowitz
Genetics Research flipped to Open Access in January. Read more about that here.