The University of Michigan Medical School will be one of the first medical schools in the country to establish a comprehensive Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics Department, following action by the University’s Board of Regents Thursday.
Approximately 15 U.S. colleges have academic departments for bioinformatics, computational biology or clinical informatics or bioinformatics. However, the U-M Medical School is one of the first to bring these related areas together in a single department and build on the successes of an existing institution, the U-M Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics.
The CCMB, which was created as a campus-wide center and financed within the Medical School in 2005, established itself as a distinct discipline with highly regarded interdisciplinary research centers and graduate training. It currently has 118 affiliate faculty on its roster, including 55 from the Medical School and 63 from other U-M schools and colleges. CCMB will continue to be a University center and will provide a strong foundation for the new department.
“Establishing this new department is critical to sustaining and enhancing the University’s reputation of excellence in this field,” says James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the U-M Medical School and Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine.
“To be a top 10 Medical School we must have a top biomedical computation and bioinformatics department,” adds Woolliscroft. “I am confident that we now will be well positioned to achieve this objective by 2015 given the plan, focus and momentum that has been well established already in the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics.”
This new department will enable further academic growth of the faculty and trainees of this highly competitive discipline and help the Medical School attract the best new faculty and trainees to the University. The department will continue to support the collaborative environment that has successfully built bridges to faculty across the University in research and training.
Computational biology is the process of analyzing and interpreting data, and bioinformatics is the science where biology, computer science and technology combine to provide new biological insights. It involves analyzing and interpreting various types of data, such as nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein domains and protein structures.
Clinical informatics involves managing and analyzing clinical data from Electronic Health Records for patients being treated and research participants in clinical and translational research. Understanding and linking these related areas are vital for health research and finding cures and medicines for diseases.
The new Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics Department is one of two new departments created at the U-M Medical School. The Regents also approved creating an independent Department of Cardiac Surgery.