MAY 14, 2015 07:30 AM PDT

Keynote: Using genomics to understand human health and disease

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  • President, Director and Faculty Investigator, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
      Rick Myers is President, Director and Faculty Investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a nonprofit genomics and genetics research and teaching institute in Huntsville AL. Dr. Myers received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and did his postdoctoral work at Harvard University. He spent 7 years on the faculty at UCSF and 16 years at the Department of Genetics at Stanford University, where he was chair and director of the Stanford Human Genome Center. The Myers laboratory studies the human genome, with goals of understanding how allelic variation and gene expression changes contribute to human traits, including diseases, behaviors and other phenotypes. His group uses high-throughput genomic methods, including DNA sequencing, genotyping, ChIP, mRNA expression profiling, transcriptional promoter and DNA methylation measurements, as well as computational and statistical tools, to identify, characterize and understand the functional elements encoded in our genomes, and how they work together at the molecular level in normal and pathological conditions. His group also sequences whole genomes, whole exomes and targeted regions of the genome with ultrahigh-throughput DNA sequencing technologies to identify DNA sequence variants relevant to clinical and basic biological problems. The lab integrates these functional genomics, epigenetic and genetic data to understand how our genomes are involved in cancer, brain disorders, ALS, children born with developmental disorders, autoimmune diseases and other traits.

      In addition to research, Dr. Myers devotes considerable efforts to a variety of teaching, educational outreach, and institutional and national service activities. These include activities to increase and foster diversity in research and education, with particular emphasis in under-represented groups, as well as to help educators, legislators and the general public understand the importance of science in our everyday lives. Dr. Myers serves on numerous national and international advisory groups, including the NIH, DOE, CIRM and ResearchAmerica. He consults for the biotech industry, serving as an advisor for several companies, including Biogen Idec, Bay City Capital, Decheng Capital, Kailos Genetics, DNAnexus and IMIDomics.


    I will discuss the use of genomic technologies - mostly ultrahigh-throughput DNA sequencing - to study normal human biology and to determine what goes wrong when we have disease. First I will discuss using genomics to study human genetics, where we can now identify all of the allelic variation, both inherited from parents and acquired, as in cancer, that is present in a person's DNA. The sequencing technologies can be used to target particular regions of the genome, and I will show how this can be used to measure the repertoire of T cells and antibody-producing B cells in the peripheral blood for healthy individuals as well as people affected with a disease. Inexpensive and accurate whole genome sequencing is now available, and I will discuss its use in identifying the causes of intellectual and development disorders in children with heretofore undiagnosed phenotypes. Secondly, I will discuss how we use DNA sequencing in functional genomics, including measurements of RNA, DNA methylation and protein:DNA interactions on a genome-wide scale. These methods are applied to a wide variety of cell lines and tissues as part of the ENCODE Project, as well as to cohorts of individuals with a variety of diseases, particularly cancer. Finally, I will show how we use these approaches to identify responders and non-responders in drug trials for breast cancer. Learning Objectives: 1. To understand how DNA sequencing allows not only genetic variation to be determined on an unprecedented scale, but also to understand its applications in a wide variety of functional genomics measurements. In addition, I hope that participants will learn how integrating these different types of data provides power to understand biology and disease than any one approach alone can provide. 2. To learn how genomic discoveries can be used to provide predictive biomarkers for disease and differential responses to treatments.

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