This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

January 16, 2024

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.


Franceschini authors new study examining genetic markers for kidney disease in underserved populations

Dr. Nora Franceschini

Dr. Nora Franceschini

Nora Franceschini, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School, is lead author on a new study in Cell Genomics titled “Genome-wide study investigating effector genes 1 and polygenic prediction for kidney function in 2 persons with ancestry from Africa and the 3 Americas.” The study examined genomic data of people with ancestry from Africa and the Americas and identified two previously unreported genetic predictors of kidney function that are associated with kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease is a leading cause of death and disability globally, and it impacts people of African ancestry (AFR) or with ancestry in the Americas (AMS), who are under-represented in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of kidney function. To address this bias, the research team conducted a large meta-analysis of GWAS of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in 145,732 AFR and AMS individuals.

They identified 41 loci at genome-wide significance (P<5×10-8), of which two have not been previously reported in any ancestry group. They integrated fine-mapped loci with epigenomic and transcriptomic resources to highlight potential effector genes relevant to kidney physiology and disease and reveal key regulatory elements and pathways involved in renal function and development. They demonstrated the varying but increased predictive power offered by a multi-ancestry polygenic score for eGFR and highlighted the importance of population diversity in GWAS and multi-omics resources to enhance opportunities for clinical translation for all.

“This study provides several novel insights into genetics of eGFR in AFR and AMS populations, including novel discovery for loci not detected in large multi-population studies that include small representation of AFR and AMS,” Franceschini said. “We have shown an improved genetic risk prediction for AFR and a large variability in risk prediction in AMS. The findings highlight opportunities to advance applications of genetic data to public health and the clinical care of AFR and AMR populations, which are at risk of chronic kidney disease.”

Read the full story online.

LaVange honored by International Council for Harmonisation

Dr. Lisa LaVange

Dr. Lisa LaVange

Professor Emeritus Lisa LaVange, PhD, in the Department of Biostatistics recently received the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) Award for Outstanding Contribution to ICH Harmonisation for Better Health. This award recognizes ICH representatives and experts who have played important and sustained leadership roles in supporting ICH’s mission to promote public health through international harmonization of technical requirements.

View all the awardees.

Recent program evaluation shows undergraduate degree in biostatistics results in significant return on investment

The North Carolina General Assembly directed the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to contract with an independent consultant to conduct an evaluation of current programs at each constituent institution of the University of North Carolina System related to operational costs, student outcomes and return on investment (ROI) of each program.

When looking at the highest ROI programs at the System level, the study finds that graduates of 42 of 242 undergraduate programs and 83 of 246 graduate programs earned a median lifetime ROI greater than $1M. Of those 42, an undergraduate degree in biostatistics ranked third with an ROI of $1.9 million.

Read the full report.

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