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JHU Launches Master of Science in Individualized Genomics and Health


Johns Hopkins University is launching a new Master of Science in Individualized Genomics and Health. Individualized genomics, sometimes referred to as personalized or precision medicine, is a rapidly expanding area of research and applied science that is expected to see significant job growth in coming years.

Doctors with expertise in individualized genomics often can determine the best course of treatment for individuals with specific diseases. For example, some breast cancer patients with a certain genetic makeup may respond better to a particular treatment regimen than patients with a different genetic makeup.

The master’s degree in Individualized Genomics and Health will be offered through the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Advanced Academic Programs. Students may take classes online or onsite at the Montgomery County Campus; all lab classes will be onsite.

A soft launch is planned for the summer semester. A major launch is planned for the fall semester, pending the endorsement of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Individualized genomics is an emerging field that requires a workforce with multidisciplinary skills in bioinformatics, bioscience, regulatory science, policy and ethics, said Kris Obom, program director for the individualized genomics master’s degree and director of Advanced Academic Programs’ Center for Biotechnology Education. The goal of the degree program is to produce a highly skilled workforce with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to meet the demands of the academic, research and business communities.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in the life sciences or engineering with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Pre-requisite courses are organic chemistry or bio-organic chemistry; biochemistry; advanced cell biology 1; molecular biology; and biostatistics.

Students pursuing the master’s degree take six core courses, three concentration courses and one elective.

Core, required courses for the degree are:

  • Ethical, Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Personalized Medicine
  • Human Molecular Genetics
  • Epigenetics and Gene Organization and Expression
  • Personalized Medicine and Genomics
  • Genes and Disease
  • Introduction to Bioinformatics.

Students can choose to concentrate in lab diagnostics; genomics; regulatory science; policy; or general studies.

Upon completion of the degree, students will be able to explain the molecular and genetic basis for human disease, including the role of epigenetics; analyze a human genome to identify possible indicators of health and disease; apply bioinformatics tools to the analysis of human DNA sequences; explain the ethical, legal and regulatory aspects of individualized genomics and health; and understand the laboratory methods required to identify genes responsible for disease.

“It’s such a rapidly growing field,” Obom said. “There just aren’t enough trained professionals to do the work and analysis. Little has been done with regulatory and policy.”

The technology for individualized medicine exists, Obom said, and now educators need to focus on training people to do the analysis so doctors, in turn, can provide more suitable treatments to their patients. Individualized genomics isn’t yet taught as a standard part of the medical school curriculum, Obom said. Graduates of the master’s program will be able to advise physicians on the best treatment options for individual patients.

The workforce demands, Obom said, are real. Experts are needed who can work in labs, sequence a genome and provide sequence analysis.

Added Obom: “It’s happening at lightning speed.”

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CATEGORY: Academics