All multi-cellular organisms begin as a single cell that multiplies and develops into a fully formed adult. While millions of cells are produced during development, the process of programmed cell death (apoptosis) removes obsolete cells. Errors in this process can cause neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Suganthi Chittaranjan aims to identify the genes that control cell death. Using powerful tools available at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Suganthi has identified 500 genes that are activated before cells die. One gene in particular may play a role in both programmed cell death and the immune system’s defensive response. If the research succeeds in identifying a common gene that controls both processes, the gene could be used as a target in developing therapy for controlling cancer and improving the immune system of cancer patients.