thomas ryanAssociate Professor

Research Areas
Cellular, genetic, and stem cell therapies in humanized animal models of hemoglobinopathy


Thomas M. Ryan (b. 1956) received B.A. degrees in Biology and Chemistry from Humboldt State University (Arcata, CA, 1982). Dr. Ryan received his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1990 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham for his studies on human globin gene expression, synthesis, and switching in transgenic mice. These studies defined the functional importance of regulatory sequences in the locus control region of the human beta globin locus. Linkage of these sequences to the human alpha, gamma, and beta globin genes enabled the production of the first transgenic animals that synthesized functional human hemoglobin and the first demonstration of human fetal to adult hemoglobin switching. Post-doctoral research (1991-96) in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Alabama at Birminghamin the laboratory of Tim Townes led to the development of the first animal models of beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Continuing these studies in the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Department as a Research Assistant Professor (1997-2003), Dr. Ryan produced the first knockout-transgenic animal model of sickle cell disease. Dr. Ryan became an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics in 2003 and Associate Professor in 2010. He served as the BMG Program Director from 2004 to 2007. His laboratory has pioneered the production of the first fully humanized mouse models of beta thalassemia major or Cooley’s anemia. Dr. Ryan became the Co-Director of the Biochemistry, Structural, and Stem Cell Biology (BSSB) theme in 2014 and full BSSB Director since 2015. Currently, novel cellular and genetic therapies are being tested for in vivo efficacy in fully humanized hemoglobin models of sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia major.

Research Interests

My laboratory is focused upon understanding basic mechanisms of gene and cellular regulation in order to develop, model, and test novel genetic and cellular therapiesfor human disease. With an emphasis on human hemoglobinopathies and thalassemia, humanized mouse models have been generated that faithfully recapitulate human globin gene regulation and disease pathology. Currently, stem and progenitor cell therapies are being designed and tested in these preclinical animal models for their ability to ameliorate disease.Current projects in the laboratory include:

  • The rapid generation of novel humanized mouse models of hemoglobinopathy via gemline gene editing.
  • Development and testing of novel allogenic transplantation therapies in the absence of cyto-reductive conditioning in preclinical humanized mouse models.
  • Testing the in vivoefficacy of deletions of the erythroid enhancer of Bcl11a in humanized models of sickle cell and Cooley’s anemia.
  • Study of the mechanisms regulating the hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH) in heterocellular HPFH.


Graduate School
Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

Postdoctoral Fellowship
University of Alabama at Birmingham


McCallum Basic Health Sciences Building
Room 566A
1918 University Blvd.
Birmingham, AL 35294-0005

(205) 996-2175


Committed to exploring new frontiers in basic and translational research.

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics is an integral part of the vibrant biomedical research community at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). UAB ranks among the top public institutions of higher education in terms of research and training awards. Research conducted by the faculty, staff, and students of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics is currently supported by more than $7.1 million per year in extramural, investigator-initiated grants.


The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics carries out cutting-edge basic and translational research. Research strengths in the department includes cancer biology, chromatin and epigenetic signaling, metabolism and signaling, regulation of gene expression, structural biology, DNA synthesis and repair, and disease mechanisms.


Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics are trained to carry out hypothesis-driven research using advanced research techniques. This training will prepare our graduates for a career in not just biomedical research, but also in other diverse fields that require critical thinking. Our faculty also proudly trains professional (MD, DDS, & DO) students, as well as undergraduate students at UAB.

Upcoming Events