Joanna M. Biernacka, Ph.D.
As the statistical geneticist in the Samuel C. Johnson Genomics of Addiction Program and an investigator in the NIAAA-funded Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Treatment of Alcohol Dependence (CITA), Dr. Biernacka assists with designing studies and analyzing the resulting data. These studies are aimed at elucidating the complex relationships between particular genetic variants and traits, such as increased risk of developing alcoholism or increased likelihood of responding to a specific treatment. As these types of analyses require the application of advanced statistical techniques, Dr. Biernacka also works on the development of novel methods for the analysis of genetic data. Her research is currently focused primarily on gene-set analysis and methods for detection of gene-gene interactions.
Recently, Dr. Biernacka and her colleagues have developed novel statistical approaches to analyze data from genome-wide association studies of complex traits. These statistical approaches make use of prior information on gene function to evaluate overall evidence for the association of phenotypic trait with all measured genetic variation in a group of related genes. These gene-set analysis (or pathway analysis) methods were applied to data from a study of addiction to identify biological pathways that play a role in risk of developing alcoholism, setting the stage for further investigation.
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