Loyola Opens Center for Biomedical Informatics

News Archive August 18, 2011

Loyola Opens Center for Biomedical Informatics

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has opened a new Center for Biomedical Informatics, where scientists will use computational approaches to address basic biomedical questions. Many research projects examining human biology, health and disease-and-injury processes must analyze massive amounts of data. Loyola researchers will use a cluster of computers to study up to 2 terabytes in one data set. By comparison, 2 terabytes of data could hold about 2,000 complete sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Biomedical informatics is an interdisciplinary science that involves acquiring, analyzing and providing access to biomedical data, information and knowledge. It has two major areas: bioinformatics and clinical informatics. The initial emphasis of the Center for Biomedical Informatics will be bioinformatics, especially applied bioinformatics. One example of biomedical informatics is the study of genetic causes of diseases. A mutation of a single gene can cause a congenital disease, such as inherited retinal degeneration, an eye disease. Isolating an unknown mutation can involve sequencing and analyzing a patient's entire genome, with 6 billion base pairs (DNA letters). With rapidly emerging Next-Generation Sequencing, the cost has dropped to an affordable $5,000 per patient. Powerful computational approaches and infrastructure are required to read and compare sequences of billions of DNA base pairs. Next-Generation Sequencing technologies, which are quickly replacing many existing genomics technologies, have many other applications, including de novo sequencing, expression profiling, epigenetic studies and metagenomic studies. The new sequencing technologies also can be used to sequence the DNA of a pathogen in an ongoing epidemic, and to identify a pathogenic mutation. This was done recently during the cholera outbreak in Haiti and E. coli outbreak in Germany. "This is just one example of the many different applications that biomedical informatics will have in basic research and clinical practice," said Xiaowu Gai, Ph.D., director of the center. "I want people to get excited about the power of genomics and biomedical informatics." Gai is a molecular geneticist and bioinformatician. His primary research interest is in understanding human genetic variation and how it relates to human phenotypes and disease. Gai earned a Ph.D. in genetics from Iowa State University. Before coming to Loyola, Gai was director of the Bioinformatics Core Facility at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. About Loyola University Chicago Committed to preparing people to lead extraordinary lives, Loyola University Chicago, founded in 1870, is the nation’s largest Jesuit Catholic university. Enrollment is nearly 16,000 students, which includes more than 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 countries. The university has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome. Loyola also serves as the U.S. host university to The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies in China and now features an academic center in Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Loyola’s 10 schools and colleges include arts and sciences, business administration, communication, education, graduate studies, law, medicine, nursing, social work, and continuing and professional studies. Loyola offers 71 undergraduate majors, 71 undergraduate minors, 85 master’s degrees and 31 doctoral degrees. Loyola is among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations, such as the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. For more information about Loyola, please visit LUC.edu. You can also follow the university on Twitter (@LoyolaChicago) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/LoyolaChicago).
Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is located in a state-of-the-art educational facility on the campus of Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood. The school, which provides instruction to 520 medical students, has been in the vanguard of institutions that have created new, active learning curricula to help students meet the challenges of 21st century health care. An estimated 8,000 to 9,000 students compete each year for 130 openings in the Stritch medical school's first-year class. In addition to the more than 500 students, Loyola's medical educational programs provide instruction and training to an estimated 400 residents and 100 fellows.
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