Jeffrey Barrett to lead CTTV

Dr Jeffrey Barrett
Dr Jeffrey Barrett will be the founding Director of the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation on the Wellcome Genome Campus as of 1 May 2015. [Photo: Mary Todd Bergman]

print

Jeffrey Barrett has been appointed as the founding Director of the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV), a unique public-private partnership between EMBL-EBI, GSK and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute on the Wellcome Genome Campus in the UK. Barrett has been involved in the CTTV since its inception in 2014 and will begin his new role on 1 May 2015.

The CTTV, launched one year ago, uses genome-scale experiments and analysis to validate therapeutic targets and focus research into treatments for a wide range of human diseases, including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and respiratory disease. The CTTV is committed to sharing its data openly with the scientific community.

How can we narrow the search for new therapeutic targets from the whole genome to the most promising individual genes?

Barrett is currently a Group Leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, where his research group analyses genomic variation in thousands of individuals to identify genetic risk factors for disease. Originally trained in physics, he was inspired to move into computational biology in Mark Daly’s lab at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he developed the Haploview analysis software and joined the HapMap project.

After obtaining his D. Phil in Statistics from University of Oxford, Barrett helped design the first generation of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and became a lead analyst for the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC). He continued his work on GWAS in the Todd group at the University of Cambridge until 2008, when he joined the Sanger Institute as a team leader in medical genomics. Barrett led the development of the Immunochip genotyping array, and plays an important role in UK10K, the Deciphering Developmental Disorders (DDD) study, the Autism Sequencing Consortium and the 1000 Genomes Project. He is co-chair of the International IBD Genetics Consortium and has been involved in the CTTV since its inception in 2014.

Jeff Barrett, Director of the CTTV: “We’ve made amazing progress in the past 10 years towards understanding the relationship between genetic variation and disease risk. The CTTV offers an unprecedented opportunity to apply that knowledge to a long-standing problem in drug discovery: how can we narrow the search for new therapeutic targets from the whole genome to the most promising individual genes?

“We are applying methods and technologies available on the Wellcome Genome Campus to help pharmaceutical researchers focus their detailed studies of biological mechanisms and improve their methods for designing effective medicines. The CTTV blends the pharmaceutical industry’s sense of enterprise and motion, an academic style that gives questions the time and patience they need, and public data services to integrate many layers of knowledge. Open Data underpins everything, so that what we produce can ultimately benefit everyone.

Ewan Birney, Interim Head of the CTTV and Associate Director at EMBL-EBI, says: “I am delighted that Jeff will now be leading the CTTV, bringing outstanding expertise in human genetics and big data to this important initiative. It has been a really exciting year for me, and Jeff, who has been involved in genome-wide association studies from the beginning, is exactly the right person to take the project where it needs to go.”

The CTTV is a proving ground for a new approach to pharmaceutical R&D, and is fundamentally about resolving a scientific problem in drug discovery.

Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Sanger Institute, says: “The CTTV brings a fresh approach to drug discovery, and is a transformative initiative on the Wellcome Genome Campus. Jeff has been delivering cutting-edge science at the Sanger Institute for the past seven years, leading international genetics projects across a wide range of human diseases. I am confident that Jeff, as founding Director of the CTTV, will lead and focus the best minds to redefine our collective approach to finding new medicines.”

Dame Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI, says: “The CTTV is a proving ground for a new approach to pharmaceutical R&D, and is fundamentally about resolving a scientific problem in drug discovery. I believe that Jeff’s unique experience in performing outstanding research in bioinformatics and statistical genetics makes him the right person to bring it all together.”

Jeff brings to this key role scientific vision and profound expertise in human genetics and bioinformatics.

Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK, said: “The work under way at the CTTV, should allow us to systematically harness key advances in the understanding of human biology and has the potential to make a profound impact on how we select targets for new medicines. Jeff brings to this key role scientific vision and profound expertise in human genetics and bioinformatics. His scientific skills, vision and leadership are what we need to continue to advance the work we do within the centre.”

This post was originally published on EMBL-EBI News.