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Bioinformatics researcher appointed leader of data sciences, informatics for IU Precision Health Grand Challenge

INDIANAPOLIS – Kun Huang, PhD, an internationally recognized scientific and academic leader in bioinformatics and computing, has been named the director of data sciences and informatics for Indiana University’s first Grand Challenge initiative, Precision Health.

Dr. Huang, whose research focuses on translational bioinformatics, is currently a professor of biomedical informatics at the Ohio State University, where he also serves as associate dean for genome informatics in the College of Medicine and director of the Division of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

At IU, Dr. Huang will lead the development of innovative informatics solutions as part of the university’s Precision Health Initiative, a five-year research initiative announced in June 2016 focused on patient-centered precision medicine therapies. The initiative, led by faculty at IU School of Medicine, IU Bloomington and IUPUI, and investigators at the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) and the Regenstrief Institute, is the first recipient of the university’s $300 million investment in the Grand Challenges Program.

Precision health is aimed at understanding and optimizing the prevention, treatment, progression and health outcomes of human diseases through a more precise understanding of the genetic, developmental, behavioral and environmental factors that contribute to an individual’s health. Led by IU Associate Vice President of Research and Clinical Affairs and IU School of Medicine Executive Associate Dean for Research Affairs Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, the Precision Health Initiative will seek to cure at least one cancer and one childhood disease, as well as find ways to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease.

Data sciences and informatics represent one of the initiative’s five research clusters across the university, including genomic medicine; cell, gene and immune therapy; chemical biology and biotherapeutics; and precision to population health.

“The informatics research cluster is key to the success of our Precision Health Initiative, laying the foundation for a suite of technologies and strategies that will support and enhance medical research and define IU’s approach to precision health,” said Dr. Shekhar, who is also director of the Indiana CTSI. “I am delighted with being able to recruit a scientist like Kun Huang to lead this important effort, as we seek to transform health care for the people of Indiana.”

“I’m thrilled that Kun is joining our team,” said Peter Embi, MD, president and CEO of the Regenstrief Institute and director of informatics at the Indiana CTSI. “His leadership and vision will be critical to driving our informatics and data science agenda for precision health, building on the long history of informatics innovations at IU and Regenstrief.”

“I am keenly interested in translating informatics tools to improve clinical practice and accelerate scientific discovery,” Dr. Huang said. “And I strongly believe that Indiana University’s Precision Health Initiative provides an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish just that. I am very excited to help lead this ambitious effort to improve medical research and care.” 

Dr. Huang received bachelor’s degrees in biology and computer science in 1996 from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. From 1996 to 2004, he studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he obtained Master of Science degrees in molecular and systems physiology, electrical engineering and mathematics, as well as a PhD in electrical and computer engineering. His research interests include translational bioinformatics and integrative genomics tools for precision health, algorithms and software for mining and visualizing large and complex biomedical data, computer vision, machine learning, medical imaging and computational biology.

Dr. Huang will join IU on July 17, 2017. In addition to his role as director of data sciences and informatics for the Precision Health Initiative, Dr. Huang will serve as chair in genomic data sciences for the Precision Health Initiative; assistant dean for data sciences, professor of medicine, and Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics senior investigator at IU School of Medicine; and senior investigator at Regenstrief Institute.