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Yale's Human Genomics Efforts Get a New Boost

June 22, 2020
by Robert Forman

The Yale Center for Genomic Health, founded in 2018 as the home of Generations, a comprehensive DNA sequencing project, enters a new phase with the recruitment of Ira M. Hall, PhD, an expert in human genome sequencing and integrative data science, as the center’s director. Hall comes to Yale from Washington University in St. Louis, where he has been associate director of the McDonnell Genome Institute (MGI) and co-leader of the MGI Center for Common Disease Genomics.

The center under Hall’s leadership will have goals that include creating and leading studies of human genome variation and disease; enhancing the university’s abilities in computational genomics, bioinformatics, and data science; and leading efforts at Yale to implement genomics in health care. According to Hall, the clinical component of the center’s work will emphasize making health care delivery more equitable. “My priorities at Yale include tackling the most pressing challenge in the field: how to translate increasingly powerful genomic technologies and increasingly vast genomic data resources into meaningful improvements in health care, in a manner that equally benefits people of all ancestry groups and ethnicities,” he says. “Reducing health disparities is a prime concern of mine.”

Starting more than a year ago, Antonio J. Giraldez, PhD, chair and Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Genetics, led the recruitment of Hall to Yale, where his primary appointment will be in the Department of Genetics. Says Giraldez, “Ira is a visionary human geneticist who thinks and acts ahead of the curve. We are delighted that he will be leading the center.” Giraldez also says he is excited about the expanded role the center will play. “The Yale Center for Genomic Health will bring separate genomic and genetic efforts across Yale and Connecticut under one center, fostering interactions and collaborations between basic science, clinical genetics and public health.”

Funding for the center comes from the School of Medicine’s Office of the Dean, and from Yale New Haven Health (YNHH). One of the center’s goals for YNHH, in fact, will be to enhance the way the health system delivers care. Generations will play an integral role. “There is an opportunity not only to improve health care outcomes,” says Hall, “but also to decrease health care costs via earlier and more targeted deployment based on genomic information.”

Generations, funded by both YNHH and the School of Medicine, will continue to be led by Michael F. Murray, MD, director of clinical operations for the Center for Genomic Health. It is Generations’ goal to enroll more than 100,000 patients in and near Connecticut—with the aim of analyzing their DNA to develop useful data for predicting, preventing, and treating what may eventually be hundreds of gene related conditions. Hall says he is excited to work with Murray toward achieving this and many other goals.

The center also will work to facilitate collaborations across Yale, and work closely with the Yale Center for Genome Analysis, one of the nation’s largest academic gene sequencing facilities, which is dedicated to providing RNA expression profiling, DNA genotyping, and high-throughput sequencing using state of the art technologies.

Submitted by Robert Forman on June 22, 2020