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Gamazon receives NIH Genomic Innovator Award

Sep. 19, 2019, 9:37 AM


by Leigh MacMillan

Eric Gamazon, PhD, a faculty member in the Division of Genetic Medicine, has received a Genomic Innovator Award from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gamazon is one of only six investigators to receive the award in its inaugural year.

Eric Gamazon, PhD

The Genomic Innovator Award program aims to accelerate genomics research by supporting early career investigators with five-year grants of approximately $2.5 million.

Unlike traditional research grants, these awards provide funding to researchers with “outstanding records of productivity as they pursue important research areas, including new directions as they arise,” the NIH said in a news release.

“I am very excited to receive this award,” Gamazon said. “It offers flexibility and gives me the freedom to pursue ambitious and creative research.”

Gamazon, a member of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, will build on his existing national and international research collaborations to develop a set of analytic approaches and computational tools for the analysis of the human medical phenome — all the traits and diseases included in electronic health records — in combination with large-scale biobanks and functional genomics data.

“We will devise approaches to bridge the gap between functional genomics and genomic epidemiology by developing novel statistical methods and computational tools,” Gamazon said. “Our work has the potential to uncover novel molecular processes contributing to human disease.”

Working with Nancy Cox, PhD, director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, Gamazon previously developed a computational method called PrediXcan that correlates genetically regulated gene expression with phenotypes. They have applied PrediXcan to BioVU, Vanderbilt’s DNA biobank and de-identified electronic health records, to generate a comprehensive catalog of associations between gene expression and clinical traits.

The Genomic Innovator Award will support his research program on the development of new computational methodologies to study the genetic basis of human disease and their integration with innovative experimental techniques in functional genomics, such as genome editing and single-cell omics profiling, Gamazon said.

He will apply the new methodologies to ongoing research projects including:

  • Modeling the transcriptional regulatory programs in the brain, in collaboration with human geneticists, neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists, and
  • Probing the molecular mechanisms underlying hematopoiesis and hematologic disorders.

Gamazon served as co-chair of the GWAS Working Group of the GTEx (Genotype-Tissue Expression) Consortium, which is cataloging genetic variation and its influence on gene expression in all major tissues in the human body. He is a member of the T2D-GENES consortium, which seeks to identify genetic variants for Type 2 diabetes.

He is a Life Member of Clare Hall, a graduate college devoted to advanced studies, research and scholarship at the University of Cambridge. His appointment to fellowship in Clare Hall facilitates key collaborations, Gamazon said.

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