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TJU Lands $1M Keck Grant for Computational Genomics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have won a grant of $1 million from the W.M. Keck Foundation to explore human genomic motifs and how they may be involved in the onset and progression of diseases.

The funding will support studies of a particular group of genomic combinations referred to as pyknons, a set of letters that repeat more frequently than expected by chance.

The researchers will work with physicians to look at how these pyknons function in the context of several types of cancers, platelet aggregation properties, autoimmune disorders, and type-1 diabetes.

The study will be led by Jefferson's Computational Medicine Center Director Isidore Rigoutsos, who discovered pyknons in 2005. Since the discovery of pyknons, evidence has been growing that they mark transcribed, non-coding RNA sequences that are relevant in human diseases.

"The grant comes on the heels of six years of research," said Rigoutsos. "It will help us get to the bottom of this story: an unexplored territory that we strongly suspect has something important to reveal about human disease. There is disconnected evidence, and we want to assemble all the pieces."

"This is a unique award for a unique area of human genome research that, with our multidisciplinary approach, will undoubtedly pave the way for breakthrough discoveries to help better treat and prevent diverse diseases," added Mark Tykocinski, dean of Jefferson Medical College and senior VP of Thomas Jefferson University.