The Division of Genetics was established in 2018 in recognition of the opportunities in nonhuman primate (NHP) genetic research and the need for a stable base of experts who can evaluate, develop and apply new tools for the description and control of human disease. Under the leadership of Dr. Don Conrad –an expert in human genetics with a broad computational skillset –the Division provides a unique research environment that enables core, affiliate, and visiting scientists to address fundamental questions about the origins and treatment of genetic disease. By maintaining a heavy emphasis on the generation and use of informatics resources, the knowledge generated at ONPRC can be shared and used around the world.
The recognition of genome data as an important source for diagnostic information, prognostic information and new drug targets has led to massive investment in data generation around the world. Additionally, we sit at the cusp of an incredible opportunity where nimble genome engineering with CRISPR/Cas9 provides a way for us to modify genomes for functional studies and for therapy. It is in this context that the Division of Genetics was established.
The Division of Genetics is nucleated around a group of experts with a strong track record in NHP and human genetics, building upon key resources at ONPRC. These include:
- A rhesus macaque pedigree comprising ~8650 individuals, spanning 10 generations
- Accompanying medical health records which provide access to clinical and research data on more than 20,000 animals, spanning more than 50 years
- The PRIMe-Seq database that currently manages sequence data and analysis products from more than 2,200 animals, including parentage and MHC genotype data, epigenetic data, RNAseq, ExonSeq and WGS
- The curated and highly annotated Macaque Genotype and Phenotype Resource (mGAP) that provides tools to explore naturally occurring variation in macaques
- Sample biobanks, managed by the Primate Genetics Core, representing thousands of ONPRC animals
- The NIH-funded, Marmoset Coordinating Center, which serves as a centralized database of all marmosets in the country and provides resources to neuroscience investigators interested in using marmosets in their research
Division scientists have expertise in complex trait analysis, functional analysis of genome sequencing data, genome evolution, epigenetics and single cell genomics. As genetics plays a central role in broad range of disease, faculty members are involved in research that spans the fields of Reproductive Biology, Neuroscience, Cardiometabolic Health and Pathobiology.
Central goals for the Division are to use high-dimensional data to map the genetic and epigenetic basis of disease in NHPs, combine NHP and human data to directly advance our understanding of genotype-phenotype mapping in humans, and to summarize and distribute the unique data resources generated during this work to the broader scientific community. The IT demands of these goals are filled by the Exacloud, a 7,600 Xeon core computer cluster developed by OHSU corporate partner Intel and installed on the ONPRC campus in 2014. The informatics resources and experimental tools of the Division are also made available to the broader scientific community via the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core and the Primate Genetics Core.
The Division currently consists of three core scientists (Carbone, Conrad, Ferguson), four research-track scientists (Bimber, Cervera-Juanes, Lomniczi, Vinson) and two affiliates from the OHSU Department of Molecular &Medical Genetics (Adey, O'Roak).
The Division will recruit additional core faculty to its already strong base, carefully selecting individuals across key areas of expertise and attract trainees at multiple career stages; act as a lynchpin for genomics knowledge at ONPRC, OHSU, and across the National Primate Center Network; and host training opportunities around the unique data resources emerging at ONPRC. Division scientists will actively partner with other National Primate Research Centers to expand the scope of NHP genomic research in the US.