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the Center for Genomics, Evolution and Medicine

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - cGEM (the Center for Genomics, Evolution and Medicine)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-11-30

The overall objective of the project is to establish an outstanding research team to form an integrated Center for Genomics, Evolution and Medicine (cGEM). The center will bring together the scientific expertise from three institutions: the Estonian Biocentre (EBC) and the Estonian Genome Center (EGC) which will be consolidated to form the Institute of Genomics at University of Tartu (IGUT) in January 2018, and the Institute of Clinical Medicine (ICM). The scientific expertise and the synergy between the three scientific hubs complemented with ERA Chair holder and the team, will create the research capacity for tackling the aims set for the project. This capacity will be built to apply a holistic approach to understand the evolutionary driving forces that have led to common diseases; develop disease risk prediction models applicable in different populations, and explore the means for translating these findings into suitable input for everyday clinical practice. cGEM aims to apply advancements in genomic medicine in an evolutionarily-aware framework to account for different evolutionary pathways of populations which have led to differences in susceptibility to common diseases. This requires the knowledge about the genetic risk factors for diverse ethnic groups and the tools to highlight the underlying genetic predisposition to diseases in complex human populations. Different evolutionary histories have led to differences in susceptibility to diseases, and moreover, using genetic data for estimating disease risk is heavily dependent on availability of reference data from relevant populations. Therefore, findings from one population cannot be directly extrapolated to other populations, restricting the application of genomic medicine in routine healthcare. To overcome this limitation, the cGEM will utilize our international collaborations and in-house biobanks to advance the personalized medicine solutions for admixed populations for predicting risk of certain complex diseases, including metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.
By the end of period I the ERA-Chair holder (Anders Eriksson) has been recruited and has started building his research team. We have successfully filled 2 out of 3 senior researcher positions and are in the middle of negotiations for filling the 3rd position. The calls for PhD students and postdocs are being launched. The team is currently compiling the research plan of the project.
The most important long-term impacts of the cGEM project are the following:
- increased research excellence at the cGEM
- increased attractiveness of the cGEM for internationally excellent and mobile researchers
- more active and successful participation in international competitive research funding programmes
- more active partnerships with private sector stakeholders
- innovative Ph.D. education programmes
- regular internal and external research assessments for scientific and socio-economic relevance
- increased attractiveness of (academic) research career, in particular, elimination of the obstacles hindering practicing dual MD/Ph.D. path
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