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UCSC Genomics Institute: Unlocking Scientific and Medical Issues

By Ravi Jain
Managing Director, UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

May 5, 2016 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Photo, left to right: Ted Goldstein, MedBook Director at UC Santa Cruz; Olena Morozova, UC Santa Cruz Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative Project Lead; and David Haussler, Scientific Director, UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute. Source: UC IT Blog)

The UCSC Genomics Institute aims to revolutionize medicine and transform our understanding of life itself. We imagine a future in which genomic data is the cornerstone for fighting diseases like childhood cancer and for saving species on the brink of extinction.

Tapping world-renowned expertise in bioinformatics and technology, the Genomics Institute focuses on two areas: Human Health and Conservation Genomics. From decoding childhood cancer to species preservation, our open-source genomics platform is the world’s essential resource for unlocking the most challenging medical and scientific issues of our time.

Genomics is an area within genetics that concerns the sequencing and analysis of an organism’s genome. While many groups studying genomics are working on extraordinarily important research, the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute is the world’s leader in computational genomics, allowing us to gather, analyze, and interpret data better than anyone else. Only at UCSC will you find leaders and experts intersecting from across the disciplines of bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, evolutionary biology, and social anthropology.

The Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative is the pediatric cancer research arm of the Genomics Institute. The Treehouse analysis — personalizing medicine for children with cancer by comparing individual patients against large data sets — is yielding real results. Take the example of a child with cancer whom we call Patient 1 (so named to protect his privacy and to acknowledge how critically seminal his case has been to the breakthroughs here): Olena Morozova (pictured above), a Genomics Institute scientist who is leading the Treehouse effort, studied the genes of a rare sarcoma in the lungs of this 8-year-old-boy, whose family and doctors had provided the standard care regiments, without the success they hoped for. Despite chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone-marrow transplant, the cancer was growing and Patient 1 was heading to hospice. Thanks to forward-thinking doctors at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, who opened a clinical trial to explore the use of genomic analysis as a pathway to new treatments for kids with cancer, Morozova and her UCSC colleagues had a unique opportunity to compare Patient 1’s tumor against the large data of tumors housed at UCSC’s Genomics Institute. They discovered that Patient 1’s tumor was similar to another kind of tumor, suggesting that treatment for this other kind of tumor could benefit Patient 1. His doctors listened, and Patient 1 responded positively to the new course of treatment.

This kind of work galvanizes the researchers here and spurs new research efforts and new partnerships with clinical trials. The governor of California has taken notice and is funding the California Kids Cancer Comparison, in which Treehouse researchers work with data from California research hospitals to provide new therapeutic information to treating oncologists, who are able to use these analyses to help kids in their clinical trials. Treehouse and Patient 1 are leading the way to real, exciting change through genome studies, right now.

We continue to openly share our findings with the world to benefit the health of both the individual and the planet.

This article was originally published here: http://cio.ucop.edu/ucsc-genomics-institute-unlocking-scientific-and-medical-issues/

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