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Center for Genomic Medicine Newsletter

October 2016

Welcome to UAB-HudsonAlpha's Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) quarterly eNewsletter dedicated to keeping you informed about new developments in the Center, including new personnel, new genomic approaches, upcoming events, and ways you can benefit from the Center. Thank you for your continued interest!


HudsonAlpha Faculty Merge Into The Entrepreneurial Lane

HudsonAlpha’s faculty investigator Devin Absher, PhD, and colleagues developed the CATCH-Seq method, which can be used to capture both coding and non-coding regions of a gene and resolve the boundaries of copy number variations within a genomic target site. CATCH-Seq stands for clone adapted template capture hybridization sequencing. The development is discussed in the paper, titled “Targeted Sequencing of Large Genomic Regions with CATCH-Seq” (PMID:25357200), published by Absher, et al. in the online journal PLOS ONE.
“CATCH-Seq utilizes a simple approach for the targeted capture of any genomic region for which mapped clones exist and is designed specifically for next-generation sequencing,” said Absher. “This process is significantly less costly than producing synthetic oligos, especially for large targets.”
Absher took the development and turned it into one of HudsonAlpha’s new associate companies, Ubiquity Genomics ( This is another prime example how HudsonAlpha transfers discoveries into commercial applications. Read more:

Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) Collaborators Dr. Sunil Sudarshan, UAB, and Dr. Devin Absher, HudsonAlpha, Received, a NIH R01 To Develop Novel Therapies For Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is among the 10 most common malignancies in both men and women. Unfortunately, progress in the treatment of patients with advanced disease has been incremental, and new treatment approaches are warranted.
In 2015 Dr. Sudarshan, Associate Professor of Urology and Director of the Renal Cancer Biology Program at UAB, and Dr. Absher, faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, were awarded the Center for Genomic Medicine Grant. Their goal is to understand the role of metabolism in renal carcinogenesis in order to develop novel therapies aimed at improving outcomes.
“UAB’s and HudsonAlpha’s expertise complement each other in many areas and enhance the quality of projects in general, not only with respect to the CGM.” Dr. Sudarshan adds that because of the relationship established, “HudsonAlpha investigators were very invested in the success of the NIH R01 proposal and provided valuable feedback.” In July 2016, the collaborators were awarded the NIH R01 titled, “Regulation of the Kidney Cancer Epigenome by Oncometabolite L-2-Hydroxyglutrate.” Read more:

First Candidates Selected for Competitive Genomic Medicine Fellowship:
The UAB-HudsonAlpha NIH-T32 Genomic Medicine Training program is designed to recruit trainees from various disciplines and provide mentorship and clinical research training in genomic medicine. The joint program is funded by a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and co-directed by Greg Barsh, MD, PhD, faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha, and by Bruce Korf, MD, PhD, chair of the UAB Department of Genetics and co-director of the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine. The grant is the first of its kind to be awarded to a program that emphasizes both research and medical training in genomic medicine. Through a mix of coursework, clinical exposure and mentoring, the two-year training programs will teach practical skills for applying computational tools to disease-gene discovery, patient genome interpretation and big data management in research and clinical settings. The program will also prepare fellows to deal with the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic medicine. The Executive Committee for the program has selected two candidates for its first round.
Miranda Burnette, PhD is a recent graduate from Notre Dame University. She received her PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in August 2016. At present she is working with Dr. Christopher Klug, Department of Microbiology, UAB. The general focus of her work will be to use next-generation genomics and comprehensive drug screening to both discover novel therapeutic strategies and to understand mechanisms of drug resistance in triple-negative breast cancer and serous ovarian cancer.
J. Nicholas Cochran, PhD (Neuroscience), graduated from University of Alabama at Birmingham in September 2015. Presently he is working with Dr. Richard Myers at HudsonAlpha as a postdoctoral fellow. His interest lies in focused investigation of neurologic disease etiology directed by repeatable observations from human samples or systems and/or genetic risk factors or causes.
The Program Directors are excited and so are the awardees. "I am enthusiastic and honored to have been selected" said Nick. "I am thrilled to work in a cutting edge environment that fosters fruitful collaboration between HudsonAlpha and UAB."

Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) awards second round of pilot grants
The UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) was established in 2014 to promote basic, clinical and translational research in the application of genomic approaches to solving questions related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Supported by UAB’s expertise in clinical genomic medicine and the genomic expertise and advanced genomic capabilities of HudsonAlpha, the Center’s collaborative research initiatives are on the forefront of genomic discoveries with the potential to transform patient care and treatment in the 21st century.
Towards this goal, the CGM has awarded the second round of pilot grants. The three pilot grants have been given to collaborative teams comprised of one researcher from UAB and one from HudsonAlpha to pursue novel investigations. The pilot grant funding is $100,000 per year for up to two years. This year’s awardees are – Drs. Cron and Absher, Drs. Parant and S. Cooper and Drs. Kimberly and Absher. Find out more about each of their projects:

HudsonAlpha Welcomes New Adjunct Faculty Members With UAB
Anna C.E. Hurst, MD, MS, is an assistant professor of medical genetics in the department of genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She trained as a genetic counselor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine (Columbia) and then completed her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston). She is a board-certified pediatrician who completed pediatrics residency at Wake Forest Baptist Health (Winston-Salem, NC) and a medical genetics residency at UAB. Hurst is a clinician for the UAB Undiagnosed Disease Program, skeletal dysplasia clinic, and general genetics, and she provides genetic inpatient hospital consultations for patients at UAB and Children’s of Alabama. Her clinical interests include dysmorphology and congenital anomaly syndrome delineation, and she serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Facial Dysmorphology Novel Analysis (FDNA). Her research focuses on expanding the availability of genomic sequencing for children with complex healthcare needs and incorporating phenotypic information into the interpretation of genomic data.

Pankaj Arora, MD, FAHA, received his MD at Manipal University in India and continued postgraduate training in complex-trait genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He subsequently completed his clinical cardiology fellowship training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  Further, Arora is a past chair of the Early Career Committee of Functional Genomics and Translational Biology Council at the American Heart Association and is a member of the leadership committee. Currently, Arora is an assistant professor in the division of cardiology at UAB, focusing his efforts on studying genetic basis of natriuretic peptide levels in population cohorts. His lab is actively working with HudsonAlpha faculty investigator Devin Absher, PhD, on dissecting the molecular mechanisms behind racial differences in natriuretic peptide levels. Arora’s long-term goal is primarily to translate genetic discoveries into an improved understanding of human physiology through clinically-focused research.

Immunogenomics 2016 - Talks, Exhibits, Poster Sessions, and More
September 26 through 28 over 160 scientists, professors, industry researchers, postdoctoral research fellows, graduate students and journalists from 14 countries around the world met in Huntsville, Alabama to discuss the application of genomic technologies to understand the immune system and development of disease. Topics covered included - Microbiome - Single Cell Approaches, New Technologies and Bioinformatics - Epigenomics of Immune Cells - Systems Immunobiology - Genomics, Evolution and Host-Pathogen Interactions - Role of Common Variants in Disease - Immunodiversity and Immune Repertoires and - Immunogenomics and Immunotherapy.
Herbert "Skip" Virgin, MD, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis was the opening keynote speaker. He emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. Alan Aderem of the University of Washington, WA underlined a system approach to dissecting immunity in his keynote address. 
The 2016 Immunogenomics Conference offered not only session talks but tour opportunities, networking receptions, dinner at the U. S. Space and Rocket Center, informative exhibits and an opportunity to hear about new immunogenomics research during the poster talks. Save the date for the next Immunogenomics Conference, October 2-4, 2017

Did you hear - 150 Attended HudsonAlpha's Genomic Medicine Conference?
HudsonAlpha hosted its first annual Genomic Medicine Conference, August 8-10 at the Jackson Conference Center on the HudsonAlpha campus. The conference included presentations from leading genetics and genomic researchers and was opened to medical and science professionals, patients with rare diseases, adult adoptees and the general public. About 150 people attended the conference. Attendees were offered the opportunity to earn up to 11 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.
GenomeWeb, an online genomic news outlet, was one of the sponsors of the Genomic Medicine Conference.  Ciara Curtin, a reporter from GenomeWeb, wrote a story about one of the conference speakers, Nancy Cox from Vanderbilt University (Catalog of Genes by Medical Phenome Helps Predict Additional Conditions, Treatments) and another story on Anya Price from the University of North Carolina School of Law (Genetic Tests Reveal Role for Preventive Care, but Insurance Doesn’t Always Cover) who was also a speaker at the Genomic Medicine Conference. Locally, WHNT featured the conference: click here to watch the story.


UAB-HudsonAlpha Genomic Medicine Training Program 2017:
Postdoctoral trainees will be supported for 12-month appointments and have the ability to receive up to two years of funding based on acceptable progress during their initial year. Postdoctoral trainees will receive a monthly stipend, tuition and fees assistance, health insurance and travel funds. Read more
Applicants should submit a letter of interest, CV, and two letters of recommendation addressed to Drs. Korf and Barsh and email to Shaila Handattu 
Deadline: March 15, 2017 
Start dateJune 1, 2017

CCTS Launches RFA for Multidisciplinary Pilot Program 
The Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) invites letters of intent that address scientific questions consistent with the Center’s mission at any “stage of research along the path from the biological basis of health and disease to interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public.” Awards are limited to 12 months, with a start date of April 1, 2017. Letter of Intent due October 17, 2016. Read more

CCTS Offers Research Vouchers
Applicants may apply for up to $5,000 (direct) to offset expense(s) for clinical and translational research services. Read more:

CCTS Offers Clinical Research Fellowship
Predoctoral students may apply for the CCTS Clinical Research Training (TL1) Fellowship, a mentored research experience that provides skills that will help you stand out from the crowd when competing for residency, academic research, and health leadership positions. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Read more:

Apply Now for a Pancreatic Cancer Research Grant
Did you know in 2017 the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will invest $12.8 million in innovative research? Learn more about the 2017 funding opportunities:

Register for the Genetics - 11th Annual Scientific Retreat
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Genetics will host the 11th Annual Scientific Retreat in conjunction with The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. The annual retreat give scientists and clinicians the opportunity to discuss their progress made and to foster new collaborations. A poster session allows postdocs to present and discuss their achievements. Keynote speaker is Dr. Charles Rotimi, Chief & Senior Investigator Metabolic, Cardiovascular and Inflammatory Disease Genomics Branch and Director Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, NHGRI.
Scientific Retreat: November 18 - 19, 2016
Venue: Lake Guntersville State Park, Guntersville, AL
Abstract due: October 30, 2016
Register at:

Join In Recognizing Rare Disease Day 

Rare Disease Day Logo Save the Date for the next Rare Disease Genomics Symposium on March 3, 2017. The event is held at the Bradley Lecture Center at Children's of Alabama on the Friday following Rare Disease Day. The Rare Disease Genomic Symposium is co-sponsored by UAB Department of Genetics, the Heflin Center for Genomic Sciences, Children's of Alabama, and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

The partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, formalized in the Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM), combines HudsonAlpha's unique concentration of genomic expertise, technologies and infrastructure with UAB's leadership in academic research and clinical medicine. Under the direction of Drs. Korf, UAB, and Myers, HudsonAlpha, the Center leverages the capabilities of both institutions to facilitate research in genomic medicine and implement new findings into clinical practice. As part of its core mission, the Center also offers a series of educational programs and resources in genomic medicine designed specifically for scientists, clinicians, and researchers. In addition, the Center provides a range of expertise and resources to clinicians and others interested in research and the integration of genomics into medical practice.  
Aida El Kholi Starling, PhDYour POC at HudsonAlpha - Aida Starling, PhD
Aida El Kholi Starling, PhD is a professional with a scientific technical background and a proven proficiency in science management and communications. As the coordinator of the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine, Starling serves as the HudsonAlpha Point-of-Contact for UAB and manages the activities of the Center, which includes the annual Symposium, the annual Request for Applications, the newsletter and the website. She also supports joint applications for sponsored funding opportunities. 

Contact Aida at P: 256.327.5240 or E:

Your POC at UAB - Shaila Handattu, PhD, PMP
Shaila Handattu, PhD, PMPShaila Handattu, PhD, PMP, has a scientific background and is experienced in leading and managing complex, cross-functional milestone driven projects. As the coordinator of the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine, she is responsible for the annual Request for Applications, and she works with Dr. Starling in conducting the annual Symposium and the newsletter. She also supports joint applications for sponsored funding opportunities. 
Contact Shaila at P: 205.934.9417 or E:

Your Scientific Consultant - Molly Schroeder, PhD
Molly Schroeder, PhD Molly Schroeder, PhD, is a board certified clinical molecular geneticist and cytogeneticist. Schroeder is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She will support collaborations between UAB and HudsonAlpha by serving as a scientific consultant for the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine.
View full profile:

Email Aida
Email Shaila
Email Molly

About HudsonAlpha: The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology represents more than $200M of investments in genomics capability made over the past six years, thanks to the generosity of private philanthropists and the state of Alabama. HudsonAlpha is a non-profit organization with the mission to translate the promise of genomics into all practical realms: medical, agricultural, energy and environmental, educational, and commercial. The Institute houses in its facilities a unique blend of nonprofit scientists and for-profit entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who share know-how and challenges across organizational boundaries—an arrangement designed to accelerate commercialization. HudsonAlpha has a unique concentration of genomics expertise, technologies and infrastructure and collaborates and partners with medical schools, research universities and with the global biotechnology industry.

About the UAB School of Medicine: With more than 800 students and 1,200 faculty members, the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of the premiere academic medical centers in the United States. UAB is among the top schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and is routinely listed among the best in various national rankings. As the educational arm of UAB Medicine, students, residents and fellows train in a world-class setting; UAB Hospital’s 1,200 beds places it in among the largest hospitals in the country. Doctoral students in UAB’s Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program participate in interdisciplinary thematic programs that integrate more than 25 departments and 20 research centers across UAB. The UAB School of Medicine: knowledge that will change your world.

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