Penn researchers receive two new post-doctoral training grants for genomic science

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have received two highly competitive post-doctoral Institutional Training Grants for genomic science from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The awards, known as T32 grants, are distributed in a variety of biomedical categories by divisions of the NIH and help institutions support training of pre- and post-doctoral fellows in basic, clinical, and behavioral research.

The University of Pennsylvania is the first institution with more than one training grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute, now with three: These two new post-doctoral grants and an existing pre-doctoral training grant.

The first new award will support a post-doctoral training program in genomic medicine focused on translational medicine and informatics. It will be led by Jason Moore, PhD, Edward Rose Professor of Informatics, and director of the Penn Institute for Biomedical informatics; and Katherine Nathanson, MD, the deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center.

"Genomics technology is making enormous advances in measuring DNA sequence variation and RNA expression in clinical samples," said Moore. "However, the integration of genomic measurements into health care is outpacing the training of physicians and scientists to effectively use the information to improve the health of patients. "Our program will play a vital role in meeting this need by training the next generation of physician and scientist leaders in genomic medicine."

The two-year program, which will serve MD and PhD fellows at Penn and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will include courses, clinical and laboratories rotations, interactive learning experiences, and research training. Fellows will be exposed to the latest advances in genomics, focusing on alleviating disease, effective use of biomedical informatics and biostatistics, scientific writing, and ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics and genomics issues. Trainees will participate in clinical rotations on topics ranging from massively parallel sequencing – which uses technology to read the genomic sequences of millions of fragments of DNA – to reporting the results back to patients. Moore and Nathanson plan to enroll two trainees per year for the first two years, and three in the three years after that.

"The program will draw upon the extraordinary strengths of Penn and CHOP in the areas of genomics, translational medicine, and bioinformatics," said Nathanson. "It will prepare trainees for impactful careers applying genomic medicine to improve health care through advances in diagnosis, therapeutics, and prevention."

The second award, led by Steven Joffe, MD, MPH, Emanuel & Robert Hart Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at the Perelman School, will support the Penn Postdoctoral Training Program in the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genetics and Genomics. "Rapid advances in genomic technology offer unprecedented promise for treating individuals with or at risk of disease, and even to alter the identities or futures of individuals not yet born," said Joffe. "Such knowledge and power require us to use them in ways that promote individual and collective welfare, expand social justice, protect the vulnerable, and respect the autonomy of persons and the interests of communities. Our new program aims to train scholars who will help ensure that the field of genomics meets these important obligations."

The program will feature two core components. The first is didactic training in conceptual bioethics, empirical methods, and genetic science. The second is mentored original research leading to empirical and conceptual scholarly publications. Training will be provided by faculty members from departments at the Perelman School of Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

These are the second and third T32 grants awarded to Penn. Junhyong Kim, PhD, a professor of Biology and co-director of the Penn Genome Frontiers Institute, and Maja Bucan PhD, a professor of Genetics, were previously awarded a T32 focused on computational genomics.​

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