Prior to joining Wake Forest University in October 2017, Dr. Cox worked with the large, pedigreed, phenotyped baboon colony at Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio for over 20 years. Her group developed many of the genetic and genomic tools currently in use for studies in nonhuman primates related to cardiometabolic diseases, including genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analysis of small tissue biopsy samples.


  • llumina DNA-Seq
  • Illumina RNA-Seq and small RNA-Seq
  • NGS assembly and annotation pipeline for non-human genomes
  • SNP genotyping
  • Genotyping-by-sequencing
  • Bioinformatic analyses of genomic and transcriptomic data
  • Comparative genomics
  • Western blots.

Research Highlights

NHP Genetic and Genomic Resources: Pedigreed Baboon Genome Resource for Biomedical Research

Baboons have been studied for >50 years and are ideal model organisms to study complex human diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Our studies are performed on samples from phenotyped, genotyped, pedigreed baboons, allowing targeted selection of discordant animals to analyze complex genetic traits. We constructed a baboon genetic linkage map that is the foundation of genetic variant localization for quantitative traits. In collaboration with Dr. Jeff Wall at University of California San Francisco our lab is sequencing 800 baboon genomes from the pedigreed colony. We also created an analysis pipeline using an iterative approach with multiple reference genomes to annotate genome sequences for species without an existing high quality reference genome, or with a poorly annotated reference genome.

Genetic variation that influences risk of cardiovascular disease

Combining animal selection with molecular genetic and genomic approaches, our lab identified a gene splice variant that directly impacts LDL cholesterol serum concentrations; the same class of splice variant was later identified in humans. We expanded this approach from single gene analyses to integrated gene/microRNA network analyses, resulting in the identification of a network of candidate genes and microRNAs that underlie variation in serum LDL cholesterol concentrations.

Discovery of gene variants and mechanisms underlying salt-sensitive hypertension

Our lab works on identifying genetic polymorphisms and networks that underlie variation in blood pressure response to dietary sodium.

Genetic and epigenetic responses to the maternal environment

In collaboration with Dr. Peter Nathanielsz at University of Wyoming, we are studying how the maternal environment influences offspring risk of developing cardiometabolic disease. Our goal is to identify genetic networks and gene variants that provide potential therapeutic targets to remediate the effects on offspring from a poor maternal environment.

Novel mouse model of obesity in pregnancy

In collaboration with Dr. Thomas Jansson at University of Colorado, we are  characterizing a new mouse model of obesity in pregnancy and its links to the development of metabolic syndrome in the offspring. We are using RNA-Seq and small RNA-Seq of fetal, placental and post-natal offspring to identify epigenetic networks in fetuses and mothers impacted by maternal obesity.