JAX, UConn Health partnering to train the next generation of genomic scientists

Researchers at UConn Health and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) are collaborating to develop a training program for the next generation of genomic scientists. Funded for five years by a $1.2 million grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the project will be led by Brent Graveley, professor and chair of UConn Health’s Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, and Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, scientific director at JAX-GM.

“UConn Health’s Farmington campus is one of the leading hubs of genomic research in the world,” said Radenka Maric, vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at UConn and UConn Health. “UConn Health and JAX-GM have a wealth of faculty specializing in genomic sciences, so we are thrilled about continuing existing collaborations through this training program.”   

Genomic sciences provide information that can be used for personalized medicine, studying genetic mechanisms behind evolution and increasing our understanding of genomic functioning. The field relies on genomic sequencing, which is accomplished by determining the order of DNA or RNA base pairs. In recent years, the cost of genomic sequencing has decreased significantly, thus increasing the demand for these services. However, there are not enough trained scientists who can transform genomic data into actionable information with the capacity to improve human health outcomes.

“One of the most exciting things for me is that this is a program that would only be possible through the collaboration between UConn Health and JAX,” Graveley said. “Genomics is one of the most rapidly growing aspects of biological sciences. The students that participate in this program will be very well trained for the market going forward.”

This program will work to fill the genomics skills  gap by training predoctoral students, equipping them with the tools they need to perform genomic analyses.

“Empowering the next generation of scientists by providing unique training opportunities is critical to The Jackson Laboratory’s mission to improve human health,” Lee said. “We are delighted to be partnering with our colleagues at UConn Health to provide this invaluable training opportunity.”

UConn Health and JAX-GM also offer a unique training environment that will provide students with an enriching training and mentorship experience. This grant will support a total of 12 students, who will participate in hands-on technical workshops, didactic courses, seminars, and attend international genomics conferences. Students will benefit from excellent computational resources, easy access to the most currentDNA and RNA sequencing platforms, a stem cell and genome engineering core facility, and a single cell genomics facility. They will be trained in both the underlying biology of the systems they are studying and computational and statistical methods to correctly interpret the data. Another critical part of this training will be lessons on scientific ethics and the ethical, social and legal implications of genomics. Each year the program will accept a handful of new students who will be in the program for two years.