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Genomics research collaboration launches; statewide network eases big data transmission


Penn State and Geisinger Research are collaborating on a massive effort to connect the genome data of 100,000 anonymous patients with their medical histories, in order to identify the genetic and environmental roots of human disease.

According to Marylyn Ritchie, director of the Center for Systems Genomics in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State, “this collaboration with Geisinger provides an enormous opportunity for faculty, graduate students and post docs across Penn State to engage in discovery that seeks to improve human health.”

The new program was developed to harness the data resources being generated through a large-scale DNA-sequencing project at Geisinger in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; at least 100,000 Geisinger patients will be sequenced over the next five years.

“Geisinger has a unique and robust resource for big-data analysis and Penn State has phenomenal data-science researchers. It is a perfect combination,” said Ritchie, who was named founding director of the new Biomedical and Translational Informatics Program of Geisinger Research. Ritchie was recruited to Penn State in 2011 as part of a genomics and computational biology cluster hire that brought more than 30 faculty members to multiple colleges at Penn State.

In an unrelated announcement, Geisinger Health System said it has become the first health care organization to be connected to the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN), a public network exchange built and managed by the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) to provide broadband connectivity, foster collaboration and promote innovative use of digital technologies. 

“Geisinger is a PennREN pioneer in the health care arena, and its connection to our high performance network will enable opportunities for innovation, such as transmission of big data for genomic research, telemedicine, video consultation, remote patient monitoring and access to specialist care,” said KINBER Executive Director Wendy Huntoon. 

“With [Geisinger] massively using genomics in its research and clinics, a dedicated, high-speed, data-transfer system like KINBER makes very large data-intensive collaborations easier,” added Raghu Metpally, a bioinformatics scientist at Geisinger’s Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research.

Besides Geisinger, KINBER's membership includes Bucknell, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh.

Source: Penn State and Geisinger Health System
Writer: Elise Vider

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