Welcome to Sanders Lab at UCSF

The Sanders Lab aims to identify the etiology of developmental disorders through the discovery of genetic risk factors. Over the past few years there has been rapid progress in identifying the genes that play a role in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We aim to continue this progress, leverage these findings to build a more complete understanding of ASD, and to extend this approach to other human disorders, including congenital malformations.

There are five main areas of research:

  1. Gene discovery: Genomic analysis of DNA using high-throughput sequencing to identify genes associated with human disorders
  2. Understanding the noncoding genome: Using whole-genome sequencing to identify the elements of the noncoding genome that contribute to ASD
  3. The role of SCN2A in human disorders: SCN2A mutations are one of the most common causes of ASD; we aim to understand how this risk is mediated with the view to developing therapeutics
  4. Understanding neurodevelopment: Leveraging functional genomic data to understand physiological brain development and the pathology associated with neuropsychiatric disorders
  5. Sex bias in ASD: Identifying genes and gene networks that lead to the preponderance of males diagnosed with ASD

Technologies and methods

The Sanders Lab is primarily a bioinformatic group that uses a wide range of genomic, bioinformatic, and statistical methods including: whole-exome sequencing, whole-genome sequencing, de novo mutation detection, RNA-Seq, and ChIP-Seq.


We work with closely with numerous collaborators, including the State Lab and Bender Lab at UCSF, the Devlin Lab at UPMC, the Roeder Lab at Carnegie Mellon, the Sestan Lab, and the Talkowski lab at Harvard.

Joining Sanders Lab

If you are interested in joining please go to the recruitment page.


We are grateful for funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and the The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, the Autism Science Foundation, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.


Aug 13, 2021

Welcome to Nick Page, a graduate student who has joined the Sanders and Ahituv labs!

Feb 11 2021

New paper! Young et al. 2021 published in eLife on 3D atlas construction, applied to the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas.

Sept 27 2020

New paper! Young et al. 2020 published in Current Protocols in Neuroscience on using MagellanMapper for image analysis.

Dec 13th 2018

New paper! An et al. 2018 published in Science, highlights the role of promoters in autism.

Dec 1st 2018

Our work with the Autism Sequencing Consortium identifies 99 autism genes, paper submitted to BioRxiv .

May 29th 2018

Donna presents the lab’s recent work, 'Analytical Framework for WGS and its Implications for ASD' at the PGC Statistical Genetics Group online meeting.

May 9th 2018

Stephan, Donna, Brooke and Joon travel to Rotterdam, Netherlands, to share our latest work at INSAR 2018.

May 7th 2018

Donna and Joon’s latest works highlighted in Autism Science Foundation Podcast.

April 27th 2018

New paper! Werling et al. 2018 published in Nature Genetics in collaboration with the Autism Sequencing Consortium.

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