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PA Department of Health Awards $4.4M Grant to Fund Obesity Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced yesterday that it has awarded a four-year, $4.4 million grant to a research team from the Geisinger Health System, Penn State University, and the University of Pennsylvania to investigate genetic and other causes of obesity and related health problems.

"Our overall goal is not only to predict the risk of obesity but also to improve diagnosis and therapies for coronary heart disease, endometrial cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other debilitating medical conditions associated with obesity," Marylyn Ritchie, a Penn State researcher and director of biomedical and translational informatics at Geisinger, said in a statement.

"We have assembled the field's experts in big data analytics, genomics, and data mining to develop new approaches to analyze data from electronic health records, along with genetic information," she added.

The research project is part of Pennsylvania's Big Data in Health Research, which was established by the state's Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program to develop new procedures, methods, and software for integrating and analyzing multiples types of biomedical information stored in large clinical, imaging, laboratory, genetic, and other databases.

Specific goals of the newly funded research project include studying non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and degenerative joint disease, as well as the underlying effects obesity has on endometrial cancer. The project also includes internship training opportunities at participating institutions and the development of a two-year learning opportunity for post-baccalaureate minority students.