Funding will support development of new software and databases to study diverse populations.
Serghei Mangul, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, was awarded a five-year, $3,916,730 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his project “Developing robust and scalable genomics tools and databases to analyze immune receptor repertoires across diverse populations.”
Mangul’s work combines expertise in computational biology and bioscience to help close the digital divide that can prevent life scientists from maximizing the potential of data-driven investigation.
“This grant will support my lab’s efforts to create open-source software tools and easy-to-use databases to study adaptive immune repertoires across diverse populations,” Mangul says.
He notes that limiting immunogenomics studies to people of European ancestry restricts the ability to identify variations in human adaptive immune responses. Thus, expanding the diversity of those studied is vital to advancing the frontiers of human immunology.
“Current databases are ill-equipped to serve non-European populations and thus we should move the research to diverse populations,” he adds. “Without doing that, we cannot serve underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.”
NIH Mentoring Fellowship
Mangul, who joined the USC Mann faculty in 2019, focuses on improving the techniques of bioinformatics—computational analysis of biological data—to better understand the mechanisms of disease.
In October 2022, he was selected to participate in the inaugural NIH cohort of the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity (AIM-AHEAD) Fellowship Program in Leadership.
As part of the nine-month program, Mangul is mentoring Chitra Nayak, associate professor at Tuskegee University, in developing a machine-learning algorithm to determine the role of ancestry-associated mutations in reprogramming the transcriptional profile linked to aggressive cancer and high mortality among African Americans.
Mangul hopes this training in the use of artificial intelligence/machine-learning methods will result in future programs at Tuskegee University to empower students with cutting-edge methods for analyzing and interpreting large-scale, next-generation sequencing datasets across diverse populations.