Research Centers

Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory

Advances in clinical treatment of congenital craniofacial malformations require improved understanding of the developmental genetic basis of facial morphogenesis. Our goal in the Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory is to investigate fundamental genetic regulation of facial development, with a focus on translating basic science discoveries to clinical advances. We perform research on palate development and neural crest cell biology.



Formation of the vertebrate facial structures requires coordination of complex molecular and morphogenetic cues. The genes regulating facial development are well conserved across vertebrate species, where minor molecular variations contribute to dramatic alterations in form. Advances in clinical treatment of congenital craniofacial malformations require improved understanding of the developmental genetic basis of facial morphogenesis. Our goal is to investigate fundamental genetic regulation of facial development, with focus on translating basic science discoveries to clinical treatments.

We take advantage of the versatility of forward and reverse genetics in zebrafish as a model to assay function of human cleft candidate genes, and demonstrated that the zebrafish palate (ethmoid plate) is morphogenetically analogous to the mammalian primary palate (Development 140: 76-81, 2013).


Center for Regenerative Medicine
Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Shriners Hospital for Children


Harvard Stem Cell Institute Seed Grant
March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award
American Surgical Association Research Fellowship
Shriners Hospital for Children, P Grant
Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Surgery, Junior Faculty Award
Amelia Peabody Charitable Trust



Liao and Galloway Lab members

Liao (L) and Galloway (G) Lab members, summer 2013.  From left to right: Eric Liao, Andrew Maul (G), Yawei Kong (L), Kenta Kawasaki (L), Mike Grimaldi (L), Lisa Gfrerer (L), Matt King (G), Rishita Shah (G), Gia Ciccolo (G), Renee Ethier (CRM), Erin Betters (G), Lucie Rochard (L), Jenna Galloway, and Edward Li (L).

Principal Investigator

Eric C. Liao, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Principal Investigator, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Deputy Director of Research, Boston Shriners Hospital

Research Fellows

Lisa Gfrerer, MD
Yawei Kong, PhD
Kushi Mukherjee, PhD
Lucie Rochard, PhD

Lab Manager

Mike Grimaldi, BS

Lab Technician

Christina Nguyen, BS

Aquatics Facility Manager

Renee Ethier, BS

Graduate Students

Edward Li, MD, PhD candidate, Harvard/HST
Stefanie Monica, PhD candidate (visiting, University of California, Berkeley)


Jeremy Welbourn (Belmont Hill Academy)


Richard Maas, MD, PhD, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Cynthia Morton, PhD, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Jim Gusella, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
Leonard Zon, MD, HHMI, Children’s Hospital Boston
Robert Cornell, PhD, University of Iowa
Patricia Donahoe, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital
Jenna Galloway, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
Andrew Brack, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital


Graham Hickey, BS, PhD program, University of Utah
Eugene Curtin, MD, Plastic Surgery Residency Training, Ireland
Max Dougherty, BS, MD/PhD program University of Washington
George Kamel, MD, Surgery Residency, New York
Valeriy Shubinets, BS, Plastic Surgery Residency, University of Pennsylvania
William Tse, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Hong Kong
Tatiana Hoyos, MD, Surgery Residency
Fatima (Beste) Kinikoglu, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Istabbul

Zebrafish models of cleft lip and palate malformation

High throughput functional analysis of candidate genes implicated in facial morphogenesis

Neural crest biology of craniofacial development

Wnt signaling in craniofacial development

Cranial neural crest biology

Tissue engineering and vascularized constructs

Post-doctoral research fellowship positions are available; please arrange with Dr. Liao. Funding can be guaranteed for the candidate with appropriate experiences and references.

Job DescriptionThe Liao Laboratory at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in affiliation with the Division of Plastic Surgery and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute is seeking a highly motivated research fellow interested in craniofacial developmental biology and malformations. The laboratory has innovated application of the zebrafish model toward the study of human craniofacial anomalies, contributing recent papers on zebrafish cleft models and cranial neural crest lineage maps. The fellow will join a collaborative group of scientists who study the basic and translational biology of facial morphogenesis, cranial neural crest specification and development. In this instance, the fellow’s work will have a direct bearing on discovery of drugs to mitigate malformation phenotypes and functional genomics of human candidate genes implicated in orofacial clefts. We are also inherently interested in the basic biology of neural crest cell specification, migration, differentiation, and potential for regeneration.  We integrate the approaches of classical developmental and modern stem cell biology and use these to explore human tissue regeneration and disease. We primarily work with the zebrafish model with collaborators in human and mouse genetics. We apply the latest technology in zebrafish genetics with routine use of TALENs and CRISPR, morpholinos, cell transplants, FACS, live confocal labeling and imaging, transgenics, chemical screening, and many other experimental approaches are routine. Our laboratory has a dedicated zebrafish facility outfitted with the latest imaging, injection and cell manipulation instruments.  Researchers work in open format laboratory space that foster interactions with other stellar researchers working in CRM, with ample opportunities to participate in scientific seminars and professional development.
Job RequirementsThe candidate should have PhD or an MD/PhD in a relevant field or equivalent training. A strong foundation in cell, developmental, or cancer biology with strong skills in molecular biology is necessary, including a foundation in the genetic modulation of a model organism.  Prior experience working in zebrafish genetics is strongly desired but not a requirement.  An ancillary knowledge of genomics or systems biology is welcome. Knowledge of human and clinical genetics is unnecessary, as it will be acquired rapidly within the laboratory environment. Outstanding oral and written communication skills are required.

Please email your CV, statement of interest and career goals, and names and contact information of at least three references to Eric Liao.

Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory

185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-643-5975

Public Transportation Access: yes
Disabled Access: yes
For information about our work, or interest in collaboration or research positions, please contact Dr. Liao,, 617-643-5975.