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VCOM Opens Center for Bioinformatics and Genetics

Karthik Raja Velmurugan, Graduate Student at Virginia Tech (left) and Nick Kinney, VCOM Post Doc Research Associate. Karthik and Nick are bioinformaticians that specialize on the analysis of nextgen genome sequences.  Here they are inspecting results from our analysis of 14 human genomes, 7 responders and 7 non-responders to the drug, Dofetilide, which is an Atrial Fibrillation treatment. This is a collaboration with Dr. Alhamameed, a cardiologist at Carilion Clinics in Roanoke. The goal of the research is to attempt to discover a genetic test that would predict which patients will respond well to the drug, and which will not. That way, before a patient is given the drug, their genome will tell us if it will work. This is part of what is called Precision Medicine, as announced by President Obama earlier this year.

With a grant from the Via-Bradly College of Engineering Foundation, VCOM has opened a cross-campus Center for Bioinformatics and Genetics. This group uses the latest laboratory and computation techniques to uncover the genetic basis of disease, which will impact primary and specialized care. The development of new genomic diagnostics and therapeutics will contribute to the “Precision Medicine” revolution, where each patient’s disease (cancer, heart, neurological or other) is treated uniquely. 

The Center conducts its own research, but is also highly collaborative, working with faculty throughout VCOM and VCOM’s collaborators and partners. It has already enlisted approximately 20 medical students to work with group members on a variety of projects, spanning biomedical, clinical/translational and educational areas. The group can also aid in developing unique genetic and bioinformatics solutions to challenging projects throughout VCOM, and has established a powerful set of advanced computer servers and data storage systems and will provide access to these machines to VCOM faculty and students and their research partners.

For more information or to establish collaborations with the Center, please contact Skip Garner at sgarner [at] vcom.edu.