Enabling Precision Health and Medicine (2017-2018)


The landmark sequencing of the human genome in 2003 heralded a new era in biomedical research. A key result has been the development of genomics-based tools to diagnose diseases, predict disease onset or recurrence, tailor treatment options and assess treatment response. However, translating these discoveries into actionable diagnostics and therapies remains a substantial challenge; a complex array of scientific, regulatory, ethical and financial hurdles exist between the laboratory bench and the integration of a safe and effective application into clinical practice.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project team will work toward developing a diagnostic test from genomics and other technologies to meet the real-world needs of patients in the Duke Health System.

Using a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, the project will bring together undergraduate students with interests in the biological and physical sciences, computational biology and informatics, medicine, engineering, policy, economics, ethics and sociology to research and design a clinical test aimed at meeting a diagnostic need, with the goal of translating a laboratory discovery into medical practice. Faculty team leads, graduate students and postdocs will serve as mentors and leaders.

Early in the fall semester, the team will meet with Duke clinician-scientists who will describe a clinical problem and outline a set of deliverables that are realistic and tailored to a semester-long time frame. Working together, team members will develop a strategy aimed at producing these deliverables. Each team member will then take responsibility for particular components of the overall plan. Faculty team leads, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will serve as mentors and leaders. View examples of possible projects.

As the semester progresses, sessions will be devoted to working on the deliverables, and subteams will work on the different components of the plan. The coleaders and graduate students will work closely with the team to provide advice, point to useful resources and help troubleshoot.

The team will be able to work with core genomics facilities to generate test data from patient samples and assist with bioinformatics analyses as needed. About two-thirds of the way through the semester, the team will meet with the clinician-scientists to provide a progress report and receive feedback. During the final weeks, the team will compile a formal report containing their results and recommendations.

Anticipated Outcomes

Specific deliverables to be determined; selected team recommendations incorporated into participating clinician-scientists’ research and patient care


Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Team Outcomes to Date

Enabling Precision Health and Medicine: Improving Family Health History (FHx) Collection with CDSS Tools (poster by Emily Bullis, Sarina Madhavan, Chris Zhou, Anu Sharma, Elise Cai, Shreya Bhatia, Lori Orlando, Susanne Haga), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018

Genomic Analysis of Virulence Factors of Burkholderia cenocepacia (poster by Noelle Garbaccio, Othmane Jadi, Malcolm McDonald, Alex Shang, Henry Taylor, Austin Zhang, Greg Wray), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018

This Team in the News

Recent Grad Charting Her Own Path

Undergrads Aim to Shape the Future of Health and Medicine

Duke Undergrads to Do Medical Research, Including Developing Tool to Spot CF Infections

Precision Medicine Is Coming to a Doctor Near You

See related team, Enabling Precision Health and Medicine (2018-2019). Additional support for this project was provided by the Duke School of Medicine and the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Bass Connections team members

/faculty/staff Team Members

  • Gregory Crawford, School of Medicine-Pediatrics
  • Geoffrey Ginsburg, School of Medicine*
  • Susanne Haga, Sanford School of Public Policy|School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences*
  • Lori Orlando, School of Medicine-Medicine: General Internal Medicine
  • Gregory Wray, Duke Global Health Institute|Arts & Sciences-Biology*

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Shreya Bhatia, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Emily Bullis
  • Elise Cai
  • Noelle Garbaccio, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)
  • Othmane Jadi, Chemistry (BS)
  • Sarina Madhavan, Biomedical Engineering (BSE), Global Health (AB2)
  • Malcolm McDonald, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Alexander Shang
  • Anu Sharma
  • Henry Taylor, Biology (BS), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Austin Zhang, Biology (BS), Computer Science (BS2)
  • Jiayang Zhou, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)