Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics

January 12, 2012

New medical school department finds home at NCRC

In the fast-changing world of medical research, computational medicine and bioinformatics is an emerging field in which scientists are asking how they can use the scalability of computers, computational methods, and the growing tsunami of heterogeneous data and information resources to develop general biological and biomedical solutions applicable to a variety of specific problems.

U-M has an already established and successful Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics (CCMB), a campus-wide interdisciplinary academic center with over 100 affiliated faculty members. However, in recognition of the need to remain competitive, attract the emerging scholars in this field, and further enhance faculty expertise and maintain the training program for the next generation of bioinformaticians, the Medical School recently created a new Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics as one of its basic science departments.

DCM&B will build upon the strong base of CCMB, which will continue as an interdisciplinary unit housed within the new department. DCM&B is charged to be the University of Michigan institutional leader in the entire spectrum of biomedical informatics disciplines, including bioinformatics, translational bioinformatics and clinical informatics. It is a key partner with the new training program in health and consumer informatics, which is jointly housed in the Schools of Information and of Public Health.

"NCRC has been great to work with, and the facilities identified for our researchers and our bioinformatics analysis core are superb", says Professor Brian Athey, Collegiate Professor and Inaugural Chair of DCM&B. “The interdisciplinary research environment that the NCRC culture exemplifies is perfect for our emerging departmental culture”.

In early 2011 CCMB moved its Bioinformatics Analysis Core team, under the direction of DCM&B faculty member Jim Cavalcoli, to NCRC; located in building 22, around the corner from the Next Generation Sequencing laboratory in building 14. DCM&B is now expanding into research that requires wet lab space, largely to validate findings from its computerized data analysis. NCRC offers the perfect opportunity to establish wet labs and expansion opportunities for the new recruits; as such, DCM&B is now occupying space on the 3rd floor of building 520.

Recruitment of four new junior instructional track faculty members has already occurred in the new department, with a plan to bring in additional three to five new faculty members over the next twelve months. Faculty members with labs located at NCRC include Brian Athey, Yang Zhang, and new recruits Yuan Fang Guan and Ryan Mills. Their groups will include approximately eight research staff, ten post-doctoral fellows, and ten graduate and undergraduate students.

DCM&B and CCMB have established relationships with the groups such as the DNA Sequencing Laboratory, and the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR), which have a major NCRC presence. Many of the new CM&B faculty will have appointments with centers that have already moved or plan to move to NCRC. Co-locating CM&B at NCRC would enhance NCRC programs such as Biointerfaces, Imaging, Translational Oncology, and Cardiovascular Research groups, all of which need computational medicine and bioinformatics that CM&B is well-positioned to support.

NCRC is happy to welcome DCM&B to NCRC, and wishes the department much success going forward.