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New ERC Consolidator project will develop tools that use genetic data to better classify complex human diseases

Professor Doug Speed from Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics has received 2 mio € from the European Research Council’s Consolidator Grant for a ground-breaking research project in the development of novel statistical tools for classifying heterogeneous diseases based on genetic information. The new tools will potentially lead to a more widespread use of personalized medicine.

If two persons are diagnosed with the same disease, chances are that their disease will develop with different progressions, or they will respond very differently to the same medication. This goes for many common diseases, also called heterogeneous diseases.

To effectively treat a patient with a heterogeneous disease, it is necessary to quickly and accurately identify their subtype. At present, patient subtypes are decided using only clinical observations, and the process is not efficient enough. For example, the available subtypes are often incomplete or poorly defined, meaning that the treatment of the disease is not good enough.

Previous research indicates that for many heterogeneous diseases, the classification – and subsequently an improved treatment - can be improved by incorporating genetic information. However, this requires statistical tools that do not yet exist.

-‘I am honoured and excited about receiving this prestigious grant’, professor Doug Speed says, and explains:

-‘We will develop novel statistical tools for classifying heterogeneous diseases based on genetic information, with focus on epilepsy and schizophrenia. Furthermore, we will ensure that the new tools are general, freely available and easy-to-use, so that other groups can construct classification models for many other diseases.'

-'Overall, my project has the potential to revolutionize how patients with heterogeneous diseases are treated, and to facilitate more widespread use of precision medicine.’

The ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme. Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal.


Contact: Professor Doug Speed, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, C.F. Møllers Allé 3, 8000 Aarhus C. Doug@qgg.au.dk