Dr. Erlich's research group studies genetic variation in human populations and focuses on the development of new genotyping technologies and analytic methods that will facilitate the application of genetic data to the study of disease, forensics, evolution, and population genetics. In 1985, Dr Erlich pioneered the development of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and its application to genetic analysis, starting with the diagnosis of sickle cell anemia and, in 1986, the first forensics application of DNA testing in the United States. Dr Erlich pioneered the development of DNA-based HLA typing and has more recently been instrumental in developing and applying the 454 Life Sciences Genome Sequencer next-generation sequencing system for high-throughput, high resolution clonal HLA genotyping. This high-resolution HLA typing system has allowed the detection and quantification of maternal cells in a SCIDS patient.
In particular, Dr Erlich's group studies human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation and the mechanisms that generate this variation; these genetic systems are well known for their applications in the histocompatibility and forensics fields, but are also pertinent to studies of human disease, history, and evolution. Dr. Erlich's immunogenetics research has long focused on genetic associations with complex diseases, and on autoimmunity and on type 1 diabetes in particular. These studies have demonstrated that multiple HLA class I and class II alleles and haplotypes contribute to susceptibility and resistance to type 1 diabetes, as well as to other autoimmune diseases. The prediction and, ultimately, the prevention of type 1 diabetes is a major research goal.
Dr. Erlich is also Director of Human Genetics and Vice-President of Discovery Research at Roche Molecular Systems in Pleasanton, California.
Revised: Monday, January 23, 2012 3:06 PM