First Steps Taken in IOMICS Pathways Initiative

As Miller School physicians and researchers work to find more individualized treatments for some of the most complex and chronic diseases, they are also engaged in training the next generation of scientists to carry on that work. That is the goal of the IOMICS Pathways Initiative, an enterprise launched by Gennaro D’Urso, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology, to engage high school students in the fields of genetics, genomics and molecular biology in research of genetic diseases.

D’Urso and members of the team gathered over the weekend of May 29-June 1 to begin planning for next summer’s professional development course for high school teachers. Joining the planning meeting was Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, who found the program inspiring. “It’s wonderful to hear how we will be bringing in the youngest budding scientists and exposing them to the exciting world of research and technology,” said Goldschmidt.

“IOMICS is identifying gene networks linked to aging and human diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer,” said D’Urso, who started the IOMICS Pathway following the development of the Yeast Augmented Network Analysis (YANA) in 2014, a novel genetic approach to identify new compounds for treating disease.

IOMICS Science in Education (ISEP) combines STEM education with research efforts in genetic disease – working with teachers and high school students, ultimately preparing future students for careers in medicine and science. The program will facilitate the analysis of thousands of genes while encouraging students and teachers to share data via social media and communications technology. Schools in Italy, Brazil, Canada, Japan and England have already expressed an interest in joining the initiative.

“Engaging teachers and high school students into the genetics and molecular biology research going on in labs across the globe is a win-win,” said D’Urso. “We are not only expanding our knowledge of these genetic diseases, but also helping educate students on the importance of genomic research, and the impact it will have on our health and sustainability.”

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