MicroRNA Technology Wins $2M NIH Investment

University of Illinois Cancer Center member Xiaowei Wang, Ph.D., received a $2 million NIH Investigator Award to further his work with microRNAs (miRNAs). MicroRNAs play a variety of roles in development and homeostasis. Dysregulation of miRNAs contributes to many disease states, including cancer.

Wang, director of the Bioinformatics Core, is combining computational and experimental analyses of miRNA to develop new technology for functional analysis. Bioinformatics is a multi-disciplinary field encompassing biology, computer science, engineering, math and statistics. Cancer researchers have focused on miRNA behavior in recent years because many tumor suppressive and oncogenic miRNAs have been found to inhibit or promote cancers in humans. 

Wang has published several methods for miRNA and gene expression studies, which were widely adopted and cited by over ten thousand publications. His most recent grant builds on this work, in which he hopes to continue developing cutting-edge methods for functional miRNA studies.

Under Wang’s leadership, the Bioinformatics Program is designed to build strong inter-disciplinary cancer programs by collaborating on research projects and providing analytical data that strengthen grant proposals. 

 “Our goal is to bridge the gap between clinicians and basic researchers, providing help on bioinformatics and genomic analysis, integrating resources and assisting with data management that enhances tumor banking,” Wang said.

A recent collaboration between Bioinformatics and Cancer Center member Emrah Er’s lab builds on results published in a May 2021 study in Immunity.  The timely, complex expression analysis highlights the broad utility of the computational tools and services available at the Bioinformatics core.

Educating researchers and providing the technical resources to perform cutting-edge bioinformatic analyses is a primary goal for the department.   The Bioinformatics Core is available to collaborate on projects and grants, as well as provide access to high-performance computing services. Cancer Center members are invited to email Wang for a free consultation.

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