MIG Seminar – Naomi Wray – 2nd March, 2018

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Andrew Siebel


T: +61 3 8344 0707

Naomi Wray

Institute for Molecular Bioscience & Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland

Friday 2nd March
FW Jones Theatre, Medical Building, The University of Melbourne

Embracing Polygenicity

The evidence is now overwhelming that adult-onset common disorders have a polygenic genetic architecture fully consistent with robust biological systems supported by multiple back-up mechanisms. At an individual level, this means that each of us harbour risk loci and that each affected person likely carries both a higher burden, and a unique portfolio, of risk alleles. Analyses of new genomic data have stimulated development of new statistical methods that utilise either individual-level data or association summary statistics. Compared to quantitative traits, analyses of binary traits present additional challenges, as technical factors can be confounded with case/controls status. The classical paradigm of functional follow-up of genes associated with disease that underpins research in Mendelian disorders is not viable for polygenic diseases with thousands of risk variants. Novel statistical and bioinformatics analyses are filling this void, merging independently collected data sets of SNP-disease, SNP-gene expression (eQTL), SNP-DNA methylation (mQTL) and genomic annotations to build a picture of the biological causality pathways, including specific cell types of relevance for disease.  Statistical analyses might contribute directly to the clinic through disease risk prediction. In reviewing progress and challenges in embracing polygenicity, I will draw on example analyses from major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and contrast to examples from neurological disorders such as ALS and Parkinson's disease.

Professor Naomi Wray is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. She has a joint appointment at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience & Queensland Brain Institute. Her research is at the interface of statistics, genetics and disorders of the brain. She has led many analyses for the International Psychiatric Genomics, including a new major depression study. She also co-leads the SALSA Systems Genomics Consortium, established through Ice Bucket Challenge funding, developed with the vision of how 'omics technologies can contribute to ALS research.

Enquiries: Andrew Siebel (asiebel@unimelb.edu.au)