Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Stanford Launches New Center to Advance 'Information Age of Genomics'

Published: Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Bookmark and Share
With a new research center, Stanford scientists from across campus will join a new "information age of genomics." The goal is nothing short of improving human well-being.

In an effort to harness vast amounts of genomic data that can benefit human well-being, Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences and School of Medicine have launched the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics.

The center plans to attract faculty and students from Stanford's seven schools to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations that will catalyze discovery in emerging fields of research.

After two decades of sequencing the human genome and other organisms, the field is transitioning into an "information age of genomics," said center Co-Director Marcus Feldman, a biology professor.

Feldman will lead the center with Carlos Bustamante, a professor of genetics in the School of Medicine.

Bustamante, who joined the faculty in 2010, said Stanford is a logical place to support the computational analysis of genomic data. "Stanford sits at an amazing nexus of medicine, science, engineering and the humanities that is incredibly exciting," he said. "If the center is successful, we will catalyze a collaborative environment for understanding how genomics can improve human well-being."

Researchers have access to vast amounts of genomic data, Feldman said, but interpreting even the simplest genomes remains a daunting challenge. Researchers also face ethical and legal problems related to the use of findings. Addressing such challenges is critical if scientists are to effectively translate genomic data into scientific advances that can help promote health, agriculture and biotechnology, he said.

Executive Committee members of the new center include Dmitri Petrov, professor of biology; Noah Rosenberg, associate professor of biology; Chiara Sabatti, associate professor of health research and policy; and Hank Greely, professor of law.

"The field of genome biology is deeply integrative and it will require expertise from diverse fields to make real progress," Petrov said. "We aim to build a hub that will cut across schools and departments to create a new and vibrant community of scholars."

The group aims to take advantage of Stanford's long-standing culture of interdisciplinary collaboration to place the university at the forefront of genomics data research worldwide. "There has never been an obstacle in the way of collaborating at Stanford," said Feldman, a faculty member for more than four decades. "That culture is Stanford's advantage. We need to play to our strengths in large data analysis and scholarly innovation to organize teams of interdisciplinary investigators to address large-scale problems."

The center, which is open to all university faculty and labs, aims to promote interaction and collaboration. Planned activities include:

•    Support for graduate and postdoctoral students.
•    Support for small project grants, including student-initiated research.
•    Computational genomics analysis service to support member labs and faculty, students and staff.
•    Public outreach. During the first year, the center will present programs on "Genomics and Social Systems," "Agricultural, Ecological and Environmental Genomics" and "Medical Genomics."
•    Consulting with academic institutions, industry, government and nonprofit organizations to facilitate collaboration and transfer knowledge.

Center funding and research

Five years of funding for the center has been provided by Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences; Lloyd Minor, dean of the School of Medicine; Ann Arvin, dean of research; Provost John Etchemendy; and President John Hennessy.

Feldman, the first winner of the Stanford Prize and Research Award in Population Genetics and Society, plans to use the award to support research in the new center, which could help identify risk factors for common diseases.

"We're not able to pick out what are the major genetic contributions to coronary heart disease," he said. "It's still the case that smoking, exercise and diet are much better predictors than genotypes [genetic traits in organisms] for something like this." If statisticians could use computational analysis to understand the interactions of hundreds of genes, he said, scientists could better identify risk factors.

Researchers at the new center will also harness "big data" to analyze how the potential effects of climate change could affect genomic variation in crops, Bustamante said. This knowledge could be used to develop crops using natural genetic variations that will make them less susceptible to atmospheric changes.

"We know about the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms," he said. "A real alternative is to use genomic information to make very directed changes so you're using naturally occurring variations rather than introducing genes from different organisms."

For example, researchers seeking to cross a drought-tolerant crop with a related high-yielding crop can now use genetic markers to make specific changes. "It's almost like a surgical excision where you take this little bit of DNA and put it onto a different background," Bustamante said. "This idea has been around for a decade but we're only now able to use it, thanks to advances in computational analysis."

Collaborating with the humanities and social sciences

According to Feldman and Bustamante, expanding interaction with the humanities and social sciences is a motivating factor in establishing the center. "We really can't make effective interpretations unless we take the history of human behavior into account," Feldman said. "That's why it's not just mathematicians and geneticists working together at the center, but also archaeologists, anthropologists and historians."

Feldman views the study of human genomics as "the genes, the bones and the languages." The bones are the fossil record, revealing information about paths of migration, where people settled and what tools they used. Studying variations in linguistics also helps explain how groups separated. If people could not communicate, he said, gene flow diminished.

Executive Committee member Rosenberg said new partnerships linking the sciences, social sciences and humanities are already under way. This fall, the mathematical geneticist worked with the Taube Center for Jewish Studies to organize a public seminar series on the genetics of Jewish populations. It featured humanists and social scientists as speakers, as well as geneticists and physicians. "We foresee a wide variety of opportunities to interact with scholars in the humanities and social sciences," he says.

Bustamante, a member of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, adds that scientists benefit when they incorporate an understanding of the past into interpreting patterns of genetic variation.

Earlier this year, Bustamante was part of a team that sequenced the genome of a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991. Genetically, the mummy's closest modern relatives live on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. "How do we understand that?" he asks.

"The genes are only going to take us so far. Now we need to understand the history of colonization, archaeology, anthropology and the historical record in a way that geneticists usually don't. That, to me, is one of most rewarding aspects of this effort."


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$10M Grant Funds Infection-Focused Center
The new center will explore intracellular and intercellular processes by which salmonella bacteria, responsible for more than 100 million symptomatic infections annually, infect immune cells.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Resurrecting an Abandoned Drug
Previously discarded drug shows promise in helping human cells in a lab dish fight off two different viruses.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Fracking's Impact on Drinking Water Sources
A case study of a small Wyoming town reveals that practices common in the fracking industry may have widespread impacts on drinking water resources.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Imaging Cells and Tissues Under the Skin
First technique developed for viewing cells and tissues in three dimensions under the skin.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Glucose-Guzzling Immune Cells May Drive Coronary Artery Disease
Researchers at Stanford University have found excessive glucose uptake by inflammatory immune cells called macrophages, which reside in arterial plaques, may be behind coronary artery disease.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Ultra-Sensitive Test for Cancers, HIV
Test developed that is thousands of times more sensitive than current diagnostics.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Weighing up the Risk of Groundwater Contamination
Faulty, shallow wells can leak oil and natural gas into underground drinking-water supplies, Stanford Professor Rob Jackson finds.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Blood Test Could Transform TB Diagnosis
A simple blood test that can accurately diagnose active tuberculosis could make it easier and cheaper to control a disease that kills 1.5 million people every year.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Paper Published Based on RNA Game
Video-gamers have co-authored a paper describing a new set of rules for determining the difficulty of designing structures composed of RNA molecules.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Marker Identifies Most Basic Form of Blood Stem Cell
Nearly 30 years after the discovery of the hematopoietic stem cell, Stanford researchers have found a marker that allows them to study the version of these stem cells that continues to replicate.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Flexible Gene Expression May Regulate Social Status
Scientists show how the selective expression of genes through epigenetics can regulate the social status of African cichlid fish.
Monday, January 11, 2016
World Forest Carbon Stocks Overestimated
Researchers with The Natural Capital Project show how fragmentation harms forests' ability to store carbon; more restoration is needed to reconnect forest patches.
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
U.S. Needs a New Approach for Governance of Risky Research
The United States needs better oversight of risky biological research to reduce the likelihood of a bioengineered super virus escaping from the lab or being deliberately unleashed, according three Stanford scholars.
Monday, January 04, 2016
Mapping the Mechanical Properties of Living Cells
Researchers have developed a new way to use atomic force microscopy to rapidly measure the mechanical properties of cells at the nanometer scale, an advance that could pave the way for better understanding immune disorders and cancer.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Viral Infections Leave a Signature on the Immune System
A test that queries the body’s own cells can distinguish a viral infection from a bacterial infection and could help doctors know when to use antibiotics.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Scientific News
Improving Natural Killer Cancer Therapy
Vanderbilt University researchers discover transcription factor critical for NK cell expansion. Findings could lead to increased therapeutic efficacy.
Molecular Mechanism For Generating Specific Antibody Responses Discovered
Study could spur more ways to treat autoimmune disease, develop accurate vaccines.
Monovar Drills Down Into Cancer Genome
Rice, MD Anderson develop program to ID mutations in single cancer cells.
It’s Now Easier To Go With The Flow
Rice University tool simplifies comparison of flow cytometry data for laboratories.
Autism and Cancer Share a Remarkable Number of Risk Genes
Researchers with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, MIND Institute identify more than 40 common genes.
Number Of Known Genetic Risk Factors For Endometrial Cancer Doubled
An international collaboration of researchers has identified five new gene regions that increase a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer, one of the most common cancers to affect women, taking the number of known gene regions associated with the disease to nine.
Genetic Variant May Help Explain Why Labradors Are Prone To Obesity
A genetic variation associated with obesity and appetite in Labrador retrievers – the UK and US’s favourite dog breed – has been identified by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The finding may explain why Labrador retrievers are more likely to become obese than dogs of other breeds.
FNIH Launches Project to Evaluate Biomarkers in Cancer Patients
Company has announced that it has launched a new project to evaluate the effectiveness of liquid biopsies as biomarkers in colorectal cancer patients.
Flowering Regulation Mechanism Discovered
Monash researchers have discovered a new mechanism that enables plants to regulate their flowering in response to raised temperatures.
Turning Skin Cells into Heart, Brain Cells
In a major breakthrough, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes transformed skin cells into heart cells and brain cells using a combination of chemicals.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!