David Levens received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Subsequently, he completed residency training in anatomic pathology at the Laboratory of Pathology, National Cancer Institute, NIH, where he is chief of the Gene Regulation Section. David studies fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation, with an emphasis on function and transcriptional control of the MYC oncogene. He pioneered the idea of torque generated via DNA structural changes as an active force in transcriptional control, with a particular interest in how interplay between single stranded DNA and the ssDNA/RNA binding proteins (FUBP1 and FIR) generate a molecular cruise control on the MYC promoter (EMBO J, 2006, Science 2010). His seminal work demonstrating that MYC is a universal amplifier of gene expression (Cell 2012) not only explains much of MYC physiology and pathology in cancer, but also defines the need to control MYC levels precisely in real time. The Levens’ Lab has also defined global single stranded DNA structure and promoter melting associated with transcriptome amplification (Cell 2013). Most recently David’s group has demonstrated coordinated action of BRD4 and Topisomerase 1 (TOP1) is required to overcome DNA torsional stress that opposes transcription during RNA Pol II elongation, but preserves the negative supercoiling essential for promoter melting at start sites (Cell 2016). These exciting studies cement DNA topology as an active force in transcription and suggest potential efficacy in combinatorial targeting of BRD4 and TOP1 as a strategy in cancer therapy.
Abstracts this author is presenting: