Symposium to Highlight Research Partnership with Jackson Labs

An architectural rendering of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, planned for construction at the Health Center's Farmington campus.

An architectural rendering of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, planned for construction at the Health Center’s Farmington campus.

The University of Connecticut’s move to the forefront of the expanding field of personalized medicine and healthcare will be highlighted by a symposium at Storrs on Sept. 6 and 7 that marks the first fruits of UConn’s partnership with industry leader The Jackson Laboratory.

The two-day event will take place in the Student Union, beginning with registration and breakfast at 7:45 a.m. For the full schedule, click here.

The symposium will serve as the kickoff of a collaborative effort leading to the establishment of the Institute for Systems Genomics at UConn, which will bring together research and education that ties in the work of UConn faculty and students with their counterparts at Jackson Lab.

“We’re very excited about the Genomics Symposium,” says Mun Choi, interim provost.

The event, which is scheduled to include remarks by UConn President Susan Herbst and Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Edison Liu, will “highlight the many activities in computational genomics, epigenomics, and analysis of diseases and treatments based on genetic components here at the University of Connecticut and Jackson Laboratory,” Choi says.

While the terminology might be unfamiliar to many people outside the field, systems genomics is already changing the way medicine and healthcare are delivered, according to Marc Lalande, senior associate dean for research planning and coordination at the UConn Health Center, who will lead the new institute.

“Genomics is really the ability to study the whole genome, meaning all of an organism’s genes, and then use that to either diagnose disease or analyze other factors,” he says.

The “systems” part comes in because of the massive amount of computational power required to process all the genetic information present in an organism – human beings, for example, have 3 billion base pairs of DNA.

Systems genomics is already allowing healthcare providers to do things like tailor medication doses to an individual patient’s genetic profile, reducing errors and leading to better health outcomes.

“There are already several hundred drugs for which the dose is tied to a genetic marker,” Lalande says. “This is having a big impact in the field of medicine, but in other fields as well.”

The symposium will include glimpses at some of those impacts, with presentations from UConn and Jackson Laboratory researchers on genomics’ ability to illuminate everything from aging and stress to autism spectrum disorder.

The event is scheduled to begin on Thursday with opening remarks at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Union Theatre, and then run through 5 p.m., with a reception following. The symposium will continue on Friday, starting at the same time and running through 11 a.m., concluding with remarks by Choi.

The diversity of presentations will showcase the breadth of experience being brought into the new institute, which will involve eight schools and colleges at UConn, Choi says.

Adds Lalande, “This is multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional, and it builds on what the Jackson Lab is planning to do in Connecticut.”

In January, UConn and Jackson Lab finalized an agreement that will see the company build a billion-dollar, state-of-the-art personalized medicine laboratory on the UConn Health Center’s Farmington campus, eventually creating roughly 6,800 jobs and instantly elevating Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative into high gear.

The plan for the Institute for Systems Genomics is a sign that the partnership with Jackson Lab is already bearing fruit. The institute will be valuable not just for researchers, but for students being trained in everything from genomics to computer science.

“It’s a massive research and educational initiative,” says Lalande, “and we think it’s going to be hugely important for the University’s continued success in those areas.”

The schedule is at http://engr.uconn.edu/pdf/UConn-JAX-symposium-final-schedule.pdf. Please contact Stephanie Holden at sholden@uchc.edu  with any questions about the symposium.