570 Rangos Building
Research Areas Genomics and Systems Biology

Andrew Feinberg is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Oncology, Mental Health, Biostatistics, Molecular Biology & Genetics, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Known for establishing the fields of cancer epigenetics and epigenomics, he is also the founding director of the first NIH-supported Center of Excellence for epigenomics research, the Center for Epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Feinberg’s multidisciplinary research focuses on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms by which genetic and environmental factors affect normal development and disease. His early work identified altered patterns of DNA methylation as an early hallmark of cancer cells. He subsequently discovered the loss of imprinting of IGF2 in human tumors and provided the first evidence for the epigenetic hypothesis of cancer, demonstrating a mechanism by which epigenetic changes lead to increased cancer risk. More recently, he pioneered the field of epigenomics, developing key tools for molecular and statistical epigenome analysis. This led to the discoveries of CpG islands “shores” that drive many of the gene expression differences that distinguish normal tissues from each other and from cancer, the first map of the methylome in normal hematopoietic development, and the discovery that induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming involves the key epigenetic targets of normal tissue development and cancer. He led the first whole-genome bisulfite sequencing analysis of human cancer, discovering large hypomethylated blocks that correspond to nuclear lamina-associated heterochromatin, as well as a mechanism for disruption of these blocks in epithelial-mesenchymal transition. He also pioneered human epigenomics in other common disorders, performing the first integrated EWAS/GWAS analysis and uncovering hidden genomic variation that interacts with the environment to cause rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. His most recent transformative work was in evolutionary biology, under an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, pursuing his novel model of genetically driven epigenetic plasticity in evolution, development, and cancer, and which may help to explain Lamarckian-like inheritance, reconciling epigenetics with Darwinism. Using the honeybee as a model to test these ideas, he uncovered the first evidence for methylation-mediated reversible behavior in a whole organism. He proved his model that cancer progression is caused by epigenetic instability rather than driver mutations specific to metastases, discovering a reversible underlying biochemical mechanism. He also developed the first epigenetic energy landscapes from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data, enabling the quantification of methylation stochasticity genome-wide using Shannon’s entropy, and linking entropy to chromatin structure. He is one of the rare individuals whose conceptual thinking in transformative review papers, his widely used methodological advances, and his experimental studies of towering impact, transform the way we do and think about science.

One of the Institute for Scientific Information’s highly cited researchers in 2001, Feinberg has published more than 250 peer-reviewed research and review articles. His random priming method, a technique for nucleic acid labeling that has become instrumental to modern molecular biology, led to one of Thomson Reuter’s 100 most cited papers of all time.

Feinberg has received national and international recognition for his pioneering work, including membership in the National Academy of Medicine and elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Feinberg received the Feodor Lynen Medal for pioneering cancer epigenetics, two DP1 awards from the NIH for scientists of exceptional creativity, and honorary doctorates from Uppsala University (2007), the Karolinska Institute (2010), and the University of Amsterdam (2013). He was named an inaugural Gilman Scholar at Johns Hopkins University in 2011 and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in 2015. He is a founding fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics, and has served as an associate editor for Cancer Research, the American Journal of Human Genetics, and Cancer Cell. He has chaired or co-chaired a number of symposiums and workshops on epigenetics and cancer genomics and was a key leader in the NIH Epigenetics Roadmap Initiative and International Human Epigenome Consortium. He has served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Environmental Health Sciences since 2014 and was recently appointed to the NIH Council of Councils.

Feinberg received BA and MD degrees from the accelerated medical program at Johns Hopkins University in 1973 and 1976, respectively, followed by an MPH degree, also from Johns Hopkins, in 1981. He then completed clinical training in medical genetics at the University of Pennsylvania before pursuing postdoctoral research in both developmental biology at the University of California, San Diego, and genetics at Johns Hopkins University. He was a Howard Hughes Investigator at the University of Michigan before returning to Johns Hopkins in 1994 as the King Fahd Professor of Medicine, Oncology, and Molecular Biology and Genetics.