To support its groundbreaking work in the emergent field of “exposomics,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH), through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has awarded two grants to research teams from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, led by Professor and Chair Dr. Robert O. Wright, and by Susan Teitelbaum in collaboration with Deborah McGuinness of Rensselaer. In addition, the state of New York and Mount Sinai provided $3.2 million to these grants in matching funds through the state’s Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation program (NYSTAR); these funds were critical in securing these grants.
“Exposomics” is the comprehensive study of environmental exposures in humans, from conception through development. The grants, totaling $20 million over four years, are from the NIH’s newly formed Child Health Environmental Assessment Resource program, or CHEAR. Mount Sinai is the only institution to receive grants for two of CHEAR’s three components.
The first—made possible by the Icahn School of Medicine’s partnership with Rensselaer—will be for a Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center, led by principal investigator Susan Teitelbaum, along with Chris Gennings and Patricia Kovatch of Mount Sinai, and Deborah McGuinness, Tetherless World Senior Constellation Chair and Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science at Rensselaer. The Data Center will address methodology for combining data from a wide range of environmental health studies, developing precise vocabularies for semantically accelerating the exposomics field, developing statistical approaches for analyzing exposomic/chemical mixtures, and performing big data science, integrating exposomics with genomics and epigenomics. The Rensselaer team’s principal investigator McGuinness and co-principal investigator Kristin Bennett, professor of mathematical sciences, will lead the ontology and data science research for the data center.
Rensselaer’s expertise in computational science and engineering will yield transformative knowledge about the effect of environmental factors on human development and lead to strategies to improve child health.”—Jonathan Dordick
The second grant is for a Mount Sinai “lab hub” that will be part of the CHEAR National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network. The lab hub is based in the Senator Frank Lautenberg Laboratory for Environmental Health Sciences at Mount Sinai and consists of a Targeted Chemical Analysis Resource, a Biological Response Resource, an Untargeted Chemical Analysis (i.e., “Exposomic”) Resource, and a Development Core that will generate unique biomarker measures of environmental exposure with a special emphasis on reconstructing past exposure.
“Rensselaer’s expertise in computational science and engineering, including data science, semantics, and predictive analytics, led by Deborah McGuinness, within the CHEAR grants will yield transformative knowledge about the effect of environmental factors on human development and lead to strategies to improve child health,” said Jonathan S. Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and vice president for research at Rensselaer.
Almost all diseases have both environmental and genetic causes. The overarching goal of CHEAR is to bring together environmental exposure measures with genomic measures of health risk. Linking environment with genetic risk will lead to better prediction, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases. CHEAR is designed to develop new methodologies and provide state-of-the-art tools and methodologies for researchers to assess a full array of environmental exposures that affect children’s health. CHEAR also will lead in defining and developing the nascent science of exposomics—a comprehensive look at the health impact of chemical, physical, and biological stressors, as well as lifestyle and social environments, from conception through development stages.