Suresh Bhavnani, an associate professor of biomedical informatics in the Institute for Translational Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, was recently honored for using advanced visual analytical methods to propose a new classification of asthma patients.
Bhavnani, along with an interdisciplinary team that included ITS director Dr. Allan Brasier, Dr. William Calhoun and researchers Hyunsu Ju and Sundar Victor, received a Distinguished Paper Award for research that significantly contributes to developing more accurate diagnoses and treatments for asthma. The award was presented at the American Medical Informatics Association Summit on Translational Bioinformatics.
Bioinformatics is the application of statistics and computer science to analyze molecular data; translational bioinformatics is the transformation of molecular discoveries into methods for clinical diagnoses and treatments.
In his paper "How cytokines co-occur across asthma patients: From bipartite network analysis to a molecular-based classification," Bhavnani used advanced computational methods to visualize and quantitatively analyze how asthma patients were similar or different based on their molecular profiles.
To conduct the analysis, his team used expression values of cytokines (molecules involved in intercellular communication) to identify possible molecular pathways activated in different groups of patients. These pathways could enable future targeted diagnosis and treatments.
Neil Sarkar, the 2011 AMIA TBI conference chair, praised Bhavnani's paper as "highly effective at explaining complex concepts intuitively" and "truly translational in nature."
AMIA TBI is a leading conference for translational bioinformatics, and received over 150 presentation proposals from around the world. The scientific program committee selected the top eight paper presentations for the award, all of which have been invited for review as full-length articles in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics.
Bhavnani joined the UTMB translational research faculty in fall 2010, and holds an adjunct appointment at the School of Biomedical Informatics at UT Health Science Center, Houston. He received the Rising STAR award from the University of Texas System for establishment of the DIVA (Discovery and Innovation through Visual Analytics) lab at UTMB.
The DIVA lab, scheduled to open in June, will enable biologists and clinicians to collaboratively discover patterns in complex biomedical data using large-scale 2D and 3D visualizations, in addition to using quantitative methods to validate the patterns.