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Robert Tjian is interested in the biochemical steps involved in controlling how genes are turned on and off. Tjian and his team have discovered transcription factors that bind to specific sections of DNA and play a critical role in regulating how genetic information is transcribed and translated into biomolecules essential for life. They have been particularly interested in the disruptions in the process of transcription that lead to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Huntington’s. More recently, they’ve begun studying how transcription factors control the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into muscle, liver, and neurons.