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U. of Chicago to Start Mental Disorder Data Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Chicago said yesterday that it plans to use $13.8 million to create a new center that will focus on interdisciplinary studies that sift through and analyze genetic data for clues to the causes of neuropsychiatric disorders.

The Sylvio O. Conte Center has received an $11.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and $2 million from the Chicago Biomedical Consortium to fund the multi-institutional effort, which includes partners at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Stanford University, Children's Hospital Boston, Columbia University, and the University of Haifa.

The driving vision behind the center is to harness different types of data from neuropsychiatric disorders that may be related in order to discover new network relationships between genes, environmental factors, and clinical phenotypes.

"There are multiple communities looking at the same problem," University of Chicago's Andrey Rzhetsky, who will direct the center, in a statement.

"We are trying to combine them all to model and analyze those data types jointly, looking at multiple phenotypes simultaneously and looking for possible environmental factors," added Rzhetsky, who also is a senior fellow at the university's Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology.

The center will be run like a large software project and will involve four simultaneous projects and three core centers working in parallel. The data will be shared in a cloud-based system that will enable investigators to share data among themselves and with the public.

The aim is to use the data mining to generate models of the interaction between genes, environmental factors, and phenotypes and then to collaborate with the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology at the university to test their findings.

"Most studies are done one disorder at a time, and that's like studying the trunk or the hoof or the tail of an elephant; you might miss the big picture," added University of Chicago Professor of Epidemiology Benjamin Lahey. "This project will enable us to look at things in a way that has never been done before, at a scale that dwarfs anything that's ever been done."