A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Research Boom


Compu What?

Computational Biology
Principal Investigator: David Rand, PhD

  • $11.5 million in total funding, over five years
  • 4+ jobs created
  • 5 project leaders

“There’s data and then there’s information,” says David Rand, PhD, the Stephen T. Olney Professor of Natural History, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), and director of the new COBRE. “Turning data into information you can use for something is what computational biology is all about.”

The five-year, $11.5 million NIH grant will expand Brown’s research in computational biology and launch the center, which will support five early-career faculty members as they tackle the genomics underlying diseases such as cancer, preeclampsia, and severe lung infections.

New Project, New Capabilities

To date, computational biology researchers have had to develop their own in-house technical capabilities, but the COBRE will build a research core where expert staff will be able to code technical implementations for the center’s researchers, freeing valuable time and resources in their own labs. This data analysis core will be codirected by associate professors Casey Dunn, PhD, from EEB and Zhijin (Jean) Wu, PhD, from the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health.

The center will directly fund research of five teams of scientists in which younger faculty members will pursue studies related to human disease under the mentorship of two more senior professors: one with expertise in computing and mathematics and another with expertise in biology and medicine. An administrative core will support new seed projects to increase the breadth of users across the University.

The Five Projects:

Amanda Jamieson, PhD

Amanda Jamieson, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology (MMI), will study bioinformatics data to identify the genomic and cellular mechanisms underlying tolerance of viral and bacterial coinfection in the lung.



Nicola Nerretti PhD'01

Nicola Neretti PhD’01, assistant professor of biology, will use bioinformatics screening of a fruit fly model to identify new drug targets for extending healthy lifespan.



Sohini Ramachandran, PhD

Sohini Ramachandran, PhD, Manning Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, will develop new computational and analytical methodologies to identify risk genes for leukemia that differ in incidence across ethnic groups and genders.



Alper Azun, PhD

Alper Uzun, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics (research), will test the hypothesis that variants in a refined set of gene candidates underlie the complex basis of preeclampsia.



Shipra Vaishnava, PhD

Shipra Vaishnava, PhD, assistant professor of MMI, will study the spatial variation in the gut microbiome in response to antimicrobials and immunity pathways that can inform aspects of human irritable bowel disease.

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