The need for training in computational methods in genomic studies has been recognized throughout the progression of the human genome project. In 2008, a NIGMS and NHGRI sponsored workshop noted the growing need for training in statistical genetics and genetic epidemiology. A subsequent workshop conducted by NEI in 2009 to identify gaps, needs, and opportunities in ophthalmic genetics also recognized the rapid growth of data sets produced by high-throughput technologies, stating that "Collecting, storing, processing, and analyzing data requires a new generation of biomedical researchers with computational and statistical expertise. Training the next generation of vision researchers in statistical genetics and bioinformatics is critical." NEI RFA EY-10-001, soliciting proposals for training programs in statistical genetics and genome informatics is an important endorsement of this point of view, and provides a mechanism for supporting such training. This response to that RFA would create the University of Miami Computational Ocular Genomics Training Program (COGTP). The solution to the "big data" problem in ophthalmic genomics is to develop multi-disciplinary training programs drawing mentors from each of these areas of expertise. Just as studies conducted in this area are generally multi-investigator teams made up of individuals from varied training backgrounds, the faculty for such a training program must be similarly diverse. Cross-training graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to handle such data requires a partnership of investigators conducting research in computational genetics and vision science. The COGTP draws upon the world-class research and clinical facilities of the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, providing a cutting-edge environment for this multidisciplinary training initiative. With this in mind, the objectives of this training program are to: a. Broadly train pre-doctoral researchers in human genetics (clinical, computational and molecular) and vision science. To fulfill this objective, we will build on the existing multi-disciplinary Human Genetics and Genomics PhD program, adding a co-mentoring strategy and visual science didactic component. b. Cross-train post-doctoral fellows with backgrounds in computational genetics or vision science in the corresponding discipline, to allow them to move into this field. This training program would greatly impact the field by supporting five pre-doctoral and two post-doctoral trainees in this area, addressing the need for scientists broadly trained in computational genomics and vision science.
Many common diseases of the visual system, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, are now known to be caused by a complex web of genetic and environmental factors. Modern technology now allows scientists to generate very large data sets with information about all the genes and proteins in the eye. Analyzing such data sets to understand what causes eye disease requires scientists trained in both computational genomics and vision science;this program, located at one of the premier institutions for human genetics and ophthalmologic research, addresses that need for training scientists in this area.
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