Two DCS faculty members have won $1 million in funding from the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute. The Genome Canada 2012 Bioinformatics and Computational Biology competition, a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, supports the development of the next generation of tools to deal with the large influx of data produced by today's genomics technologies.
“Bioinformatics becomes increasingly important as researchers are able to generate more and more data,” said Judith Chadwick, U of T’s Assistant Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “Tools that help us make sense of these data are the keys to better health and quality of life. On behalf of the University of Toronto, thanks to Genome Canada for these awards—and to the Ontario Genomics Institute for facilitating them. And congratulations to the researchers on these richly-deserved awards.”
Professors Michael Brudno and Gary Bader received $998,546 to develop software that will help doctors use a patient’s genome to search for information about his or her risk of developing a disease.
“Genome sequencing is evolving from being a research project to a routine medical test,” says Brudno. He and Bader want to help clinicians interpret these tests to better target medical treatment.
The data generated when a human genome is sequenced are in the terabyte range—much more than any human could make sense of. (A terabyte of paper stacked would make a 66,000-mile tower.) The team’s software will help distil the data down to a few megabypes of information that is actually useful. (A megabyte is roughly equivalent to 500 pages of text.)
“Often it is hard to figure out the exact type of disorder a patient has,” says Brudno. “Two disorders that look the same may have different genetic causes—and need different courses of treatment.” Sequencing a patient’s genome allows for precisely targeted treatment.
The software can also be used to help healthy patients understand their risk of developing genetic diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
The funding, half of which comes from Genome Canada, and half from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), will allow the researchers to test and refine their software in collaboration doctors treating patients at SickKids. Brudno notes that a previous grant from the Ontario Genomics Institute was instrumental in getting the project started.
Brudno is affiliated with the Department of Computer Science, the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Bimolecular Research, the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research and the Hospital for Sick Children, where he is the director of the Centre for Computational Medicine. Bader is affiliated with the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Bimolecular Research, the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Molecular Genetics and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The above was excerpted from a U of T Research story by Jenny Hall. (Pictured, top to bottom: Michael Brudno and Gary Bader.)