Esteban Gonzalez Burchard

MD, MPH, Professor of Pharmacy and Medicine at UCSF

My major scientific interests center on identifying genetic risk factors for common diseases and traits (e.g. asthma and drug response) in racial/ethnically mixed populations. I am fascinated with how racial/ethnic background influences health and risk of disease. For example, in the U.S., asthma prevalence and severity are highest in Puerto Ricans and lowest in Mexican Americans (all other races/ethnicities fall in the middle). This is paradoxical because both groups are categorized by the census as “Hispanic or Latino.” It is clear that social, environmental and genetic risk factors contribute to these health disparities. It is also clear that the distribution of these risk factors varies among racial/ethnic groups. However, disparities in asthma prevalence between Latino groups remain even when they live in similar environments. Therefore, asthma cannot be explained solely by environmental factors alone.

To this end, we have created two large studies of asthma in children, GALA and SAGE. The Genetics of Asthma in Latino Americans (GALA) Study is a multicenter international collaboration. The goal of the GALA Study is to identify genetic and environmental risk factors for asthma and asthma severity among Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, the two largest Hispanic groups in the U.S. The Study of African Americans, Asthma, Genes & Environments (SAGE) is solely focused on African American children with and without asthma.

I work in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team from several Universities, which includes scientists with expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics, medicine, molecular and cell biology and genomics. Using tools from these disciplines, we perform comprehensive epidemiologic research (genetic, social and environmental) designed to untangle why populations differ in health and disease. We have leveraged the rich ancestry in these populations to untangle complex gene-environment interactions for health and disease. We have developed specific expertise in population-based genetic studies in racially mixed (admixed) populations. Most importantly, we are working to ensure that modern advances in research will benefit all populations.

Dr. Burchard is the PI of the Obesity and Asthma Research Project within CHARM.

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