University of Wisconsin–Madison

Multi-Omics Hub Updates: December 2017

Multi-Omics Hub

The Multi-omics hub currently features the epigenetics group and the microbiome portal. The 2017 UW Epigenetics Symposium held Oct 5 at the Waisman Center was organized by the WID Epigenetics faculty Denu, Lewis, Sridharan and Zhong.  The morning session featured talks on neuro-epigenetics, and the afternoon showcased short talks focused on latest methods, an open discussion of future efforts, and poster presentations from trainees. The major topics of discussion were the mechanism by which campus sponsors new projects, and the mechanisms by which clinical and basic science faculty could engage to accelerate both discovery and new medicines or improved standard of care.

WID created a Microbiome Portal, which provides information and organization to microbiome researchers on campus ( If you wish to be listed on the Portal or be added to the mailing list, let Pat Pointer know.  Please visit the website for relevant news and upcoming events. The campus microbiome group formed a steering committee that will provide oversight for the new microbiome bioinformatics center.  The lead bioinformatics position will be filled in short order. If you know of qualified individuals, please encourage them to apply here.

The UW microbiome community has scheduled a Midwest Microbiome Meeting (3M) April  25-26, 2018, which will be held in the Discovery Building. 3M will include the UW campus community, scientists from U Chicago, MSU, UM, Wash U, and Illinois as well as speakers from outside the Midwest. So, save the dates!

PI’s in the UW campus microbiome community have been meeting monthly to discuss how this group can act synergistically to obtain funding and start new collaborations. WID hosted a microbiome campus event that drew people from labs across campus to hear lightning talks.

WID’s Data Science Hub and the campus Data Science Initiative are expected to be instrumental in the success of the Multi-Omics Hub and any Grand Challenge from the Healthy People Group. To support these goals, related 2020 and Data Science Initiative proposals are being conceived and written by many folks associated directly or indirectly with WID. We should strive to coordinate these activities so that our ideas have the best possible shot of being supported.

Healthy People Group

Members of this group have met to discuss a grand challenge that leverages WID expertise and that integrates other ongoing research interests of the UW campus. Projects that incorporated epigenetics, microbiome, metabolism, and brain development/function solidified during the discussions. At the last meeting, we tasked ourselves to develop several brain-centric projects that could be distilled into a typical NIH-style specific aims page, but that could also capture the imagination of the public and potential donors. Under this umbrella, we proposed calling this grand challenge BrainSPAN 100: Maintaining healthy brain function throughout the human lifespan (BrainSpan).  Human lifespans are increasing, but human longevity is only desirable if optimal brain function is maintained throughout the entire journey of life, and several diseases threaten brain health.  The aim of BrainSPAN 100 is to enable humans to maintain brain health throughout 100 years of life. The idea is to build a research pipeline that permits integration of molecular, epidemiological, and behavioral/cognitive data to understand the complex brain environment and enables a goal of BrainSPAN 100. To better define feasibility and broader interest in the initiative, there have been many additional discussions with other UW and Madison entities, including STEMINA (autism), Center for Healthy Minds (mindfulness), ADRC faculty (Alzheimer’s Disease), and the Department of Psychiatry (severe depression, PTSD).  The response from these groups has been incredibly positive, and further discussions are planned. In most cases, these groups provide a unique population of affected humans in which molecular analyses can enable new basic discoveries, as well as early predictors of onset and applications of precision medicine. Equally important in this endeavor is the Data Science infrastructure and the math/computation that allows us to effectively integrate large disparate data.  We are encouraging all parts of campus to weigh in on how we can solve this data puzzle.