Professorship of Genome Biology, ETH Zurich

NOMIS Research Project

Clinicians’ approaches to the prevention and treatment of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease are beginning to experience a shift from evidence-based medicine to personalized medicine. We now can perform genetic tests in order to determine if a person is susceptible to developing a particular disease as well as what response a person might have to a certain treatment. This rapidly growing field has the potential to greatly increase the chances of successful treatment by tailoring therapy to individual molecular and genetic profiles.

To promote the advancement of personalized medicine, Switzerland has launched the Swiss Personalized Health Network, a national research initiative to establish high-tech infrastructure for personalized medicine and to create stronger ties between hospitals and universities. ETH Zürich, a leading Swiss science and technology university, is participating in the effort to establish and advance the field of personalized health and technology through a new Professorship of Genome Biology within its Department of Biology.

The professorship is funded by NOMIS in cooperation with the Lotte und Adolf Hotz-Sprenger Stiftung. The key objective is to study the functional elements encoded in complex genomes through comparative analysis, seeking to deepen our understanding of how the genetic variation in the human population is related to disease susceptibility. This includes research on the distinctive cellular signatures of diseases (e.g., cancer) and on respective responses to drugs, as well as research on the mutations underlying cancer.

Against this background, the new professorship will develop an independent program in the area of human/mammalian genomics. In addition, it will develop and apply tools and data to pioneer new ways of understanding the genomic basis of quantitative traits, interaction networks and disease.

Jacob Corn was appointed Professor of Genome Biology at ETH Zurich in 2018. Corn is the founding Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His research aims to bring about the end of genetic disease through the development and application of next-generation genome editing technologies — improving human health through the fundamental understanding of disease mechanisms.