GREENWOOD, South Carolina – The Greenwood Genetic Center has named Richard Steet, PhD as Director of Research and Head of the JC Self Research Institute. He joins the GGC faculty from the University of Georgia where he was Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the University’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.
Steet’s research program, which is funded by the NIH and private foundations, is focused on defining disease mechanisms for two different classes of inherited diseases – lysosomal storage disorders and congenital disorders of glycosylation. Dr. Steet is also a dedicated advocate of rare disease research and serves on the scientific advisory boards for the National MPS Society and ISMRD, two organizations that provide family support and advance research.
“I am thrilled to become part of the world-renowned Greenwood Genetic Center, and I look forward to collaborating with their clinical and diagnostic divisions to enhance our understanding of the genetic basis for birth defects and disabilities,” said Steet.
Steet’s additional goals for the Center’s Research Division include integrating the Center’s strengths in basic science research with clinical and translational studies. He also plans to enhance partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that can drive therapeutic development for genetic disorders.
Steet and Heather Flanagan-Steet, PhD, who also joins GGC’s faculty as Director of Functional Studies and Director of the Center’s new Aquaculture Facility, study both cell and animal-based models of human disease. Their work uses a combination of chemical, molecular, and developmental approaches to unravel the complexity of these disorders and explore new ways to treat them. Their efforts will dovetail in many ways with the mission of the Clemson Center for Human Genetics, located adjacent to the JC Self Research Institute.
The Steets have been working with GGC over the past several months to set up a new aquaculture facility at the Center that, once fully operational, will house over 10,000 zebrafish. The facility, along with a new confocal microscope, which will arrive at GGC this fall, will allow in depth characterization of zebrafish models for several human genetic diseases. Their zebrafish and cell models will be further leveraged to study challenging cases seen in the clinic and diagnostic labs.
“Zebrafish, who share approximately 70% of their genes with humans, are a powerful model organism for genetic disorders,” shared Flanagan-Steet. “Since zebrafish embryos are clear, we can observe their development from the very beginning and learn how genetic factors lead to the disease-associated features that we see in patients.”
“GGC is fortunate to have the expertise of both Dr. Steet and Dr. Flanagan-Steet, and we are excited as our research program expands to include our first animal model,” said Steve Skinner, MD, Director of GGC. “The potential of this new area of study is tremendous, and what we learn through their lab will undoubtedly move us closer to developing effective treatments for patients with rare genetic disorders.”
Steet assumes the directorship from Charles Schwartz, PhD who joined GGC in 1985 as the Director of the Center’s Molecular Laboratory, and shifted his focus to lead research initiatives in 1996. Schwartz earned an international reputation in the area of X-linked intellectual disability. He remains on GGC faculty as a Senior Research Scientist.