Carlos Bustamante named chair of new Department of Biomedical Data Science

Population geneticist Carlos Bustamante will lead a new biomedical data department founded to advance precision health.

Carlos Bustamante

Carlos Bustamante, PhD, professor of genetics and founding director of the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics, has been appointed chair of the new Department of Biomedical Data Science.

The department will build on the School of Medicine’s strengths in using information technology to advance precision health and work to find common solutions to the challenges of analyzing biomedical data from varied sources, including biosensors, electronic medical records and genomic sequencing.

Bustamante, who was involved in planning the department, said he is enthusiastic about his new position. “It’s really a dream come true,” he said. “Bringing together our exceptional faculty with expertise in statistics, biomedical informatics and ‘big data’ analysis creates amazing opportunities for advancing precision health. Our goal is to marry rigorous methods development, large-scale biological data sets, and clinical outcomes to uncover the mechanisms of disease and improve health and well-being,” he said.

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, said he is pleased that Bustamante will be heading the department. “Leadership in this area is fundamental to Stanford Medicine’s vision for making precision health a reality,” Minor said. “Carlos has an inspiring vision for the future of biomedical data science, one that is enthusiastically shared by the founding faculty.”

The dean also announced that Philip Lavori, PhD, professor of health research and policy, has also agreed to serve as vice chair of the new department. Lavori will step down as chair of the Department of Health Research and Policy to take on this new role. Bustamante and Lavori will begin their terms on Oct. 1.

I’ve been interested in large-scale data analysis since I was in graduate school.

Bustamante is pre-adapted for developing the new department, which was created in June. “I’ve been interested in large-scale data analysis since I was in graduate school,” he said. He is a population geneticist whose work has encompassed analyzing genomewide patterns of variation within and between species. He has used such genomic analysis to answer basic questions in biology, anthropology and medicine, and has long worked at the interface of genomics, computational biology and mathematical genetics.

After earning a doctoral degree in biology at Harvard in 2001 and completing a postdoctoral fellowship in mathematical genetics at the University of Oxford in 2002, Bustamante was on Cornell University’s faculty in the departments of Statistical Sciences and Biology Statistics and of Computational Biology. He joined Stanford’s faculty in 2010. He has received multiple honors and awards, including a Marshall-Sherfield Fellowship, a Sloan Research Fellowship and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.

Bustamante said he plans to begin populating the new department with a core of 15-20 faculty from across the medical school and add five to 10 “amazing investigators,” in the coming five years to build up a premier department that engages Stanford’s strengths in biostatistics, bioinformatics and computational science.

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