Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate Program

  • David Balli

    David Balli.Undergraduate institution: DePauw University, Greencastle, IN

    After attending a small liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree, I wanted to attend a graduate school that combined a close-knit research community with a world-class institution. During my interview, it was clear that the Molecular and Developmental Biology program here at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was able to offer such an environment. The wide range of research being conducted within the program was also a significant factor in choosing to come to Cincinnati. This allows rotating students the ability to sample different research areas to help with choosing which lab to join.

    The MDB program would not be what it is today if it were not for the quality of the faculty members. Each investigator here is focused on conducting top-notch research and also helping to teach and guide their graduate students. Personally, I find the “open door” policy of the faculty a tremendous strength to the MDB program. The faculty members here are always willing to listen to any questions or ideas that you have, even if your research isn’t in their area of expertise.

    My thesis work is investigating a transcription factor called Forkhead Box M1, or Foxm1. Foxm1 was originally discovered to control cell division as well as promote tumor cell proliferation and cancer formation. My work has led to the discovery that Foxm1 has additional functions apart from cell proliferation. Within the tumor microenvironment, I found that Foxm1 within vascular endothelial cells acts as a tumor suppressor by repressing pro-oncogenic developmental pathways within tumor cells (Balli et al., 2011, Cancer Res.). I also discovered that Foxm1 is within inflammatory cells during tumor formation. Macrophages lacking Foxm1 fail to migrate to the lung and mice are protected from inflammation and tumor formation. (Balli et al., 2011, Oncogene).

    I believe the MDB program has better prepared me for a career in the sciences than most other graduate programs could have. The quality of scientists, research and facilities available here at the MDB program and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital give the students of this program a great opportunity to conduct high-impact research for their thesis work.


    Balli D, Zhang Y, Snyder J, Kalinichenko VV, Kalin TV. Endothelial cell-specific deletion of transcription factor FoxM1 increases urethane-induced lung carcinogenesis.Cancer Res. 2011;71(1):40-50. PMCID: 3075588.

    Wang IC, Meliton L, Ren X, Zhang Y, Balli D, Snyder J, Whitsett JA, Kalinichenko VV, Kalin TV. Deletion of Forkhead Box M1 transcription factor from respiratory epithelial cells inhibits pulmonary tumorigenesis.PLoS One. 2009;4(8):e6609. PMCID: 2720537.