Building on its reputation as a major player in genome science, the Keck School of Medicine of USC has established the Center for Genetic Epidemiology under the leadership of Christopher A. Haiman, ScD, professor of preventive medicine.

Genetic epidemiology identifies the genetic factors that contribute to disease. The identification of such factors may be used to uncover novel biology and to classify the population based on risk for screening and disease prevention.

“Given our strong history at the Keck School, a major emphasis will continue to be on cancer,” said Haiman, who also holds the AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research. “However, we plan to widen the research to other diseases as well.”

A major focus will be studying diverse populations that have different risks of developing disease, such as the community surrounding the Keck School.

“Los Angeles is an optimal environment for such a center, given its large, diverse population,” Haiman said.

The center also will concentrate on the establishment of population-based resources as well as the development and application of genomic methods for understanding the genetic basis of disease.

Over the next five years, faculty recruitment will take place in concert with the departments of Preventive Medicine and Translational Genomics, as well as the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, to identify stars in the field that support the Keck School’s initiatives in genome research, including precision medicine.

Haiman has been a leader in genetic epidemiology research for more than 10 years, serving as principal investigator and co-principal investigator of significant federal grants including projects from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense. His research has contributed to placing the medical school at the forefront of population-based genetic research and he currently is leading a number of genomics consortia of common cancers in men and women of African ancestry as well as being the co-principal investigator of the Multiethnic Cohort.

The center will be located within the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

— Amanda Busick