Engineering Is One of Four UI Colleges in Genetics Challenge

Monday, August 13, 2012

The College of Engineering is one of four colleges on campus competing against 29 other teams from around the world to interpret complete DNA sequences from three different families in an effort to determine the medical problems each family faces.  The UI team consists of 30 researchers.

Participating faculty members from the College of Engineering include Todd Scheetz and Terry Braun, both associate professors of biomedical engineering and researchers at the UI Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; and Tom Casavant, Roy J. Carver, Jr. Chair in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Engineering staff members also  participating are David Thole and E. Ann Black-Ziegelbein, along with students Adam DeLuca and S. Scott Whitmore.

The goal of the contest, led by Boston Children’s Hospital, is to establish "best practices" for interpreting genomic data, an important initiative as “personalized” genomic medicine becomes more common.

Participants in the competition, known as the CLARITY challenge, range from small biotech startups to the National Institutes of Health, with teams based in the United States, Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden.

The winner of the challenge will be announced in late October and receive a $25,000 prize in November at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Francisco.

Of the three families, two have children affected by a neuromuscular disorder. In the third family, the child has a cardiovascular abnormality. Previous attempts to determine the causes of the medical problems facing these families have proven unsuccessful.

Full information about the Challenge is available online at