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Associate Professor, Genetics 

Research Interests


Lab Website

In my research program, I use semantic technology and knowledge graphs to combine and analyze heterogeneous data at scale for the purpose of understanding the environmental component of disease. We have all heard the paradigm “genes and environments equals phenotypes”; yet, the infrastructure supporting the integration of genomic and phenomic data are years ahead of that for environmental or “exposomic” data. This work has important implications for complex diseases that have more nuanced genetic components such as Parkinson’s Disease and asthma as well as diseases that are expected to be exacerbated by climate change such as kidney disease, some types of parasitic infections, and seasonal allergies. A focus on finding meaningful environmental measures to apply to a patient record is a central theme of my research. Specifically, I am examining 1) the combination of satellite observations of toxic cyanobacteria blooms, EHR records, and other genetic data to reveal correlations in clinical outcomes; 2) the use of geolocated address histories to assign specific exposures to individuals; 3) the use of companion animals as sentinels of disease to reveal the interplay between environment and genetic endowment; 4) the use of AI to better understand how phenotypes result from interactions between genes and environments, and 5) the public health impacts of disruptions in biogeochemical cycling and biodiversity. While the environment has always been an essential part of human health, as the climate changes, understanding the environmental component of disease at scale will drive a need to develop the data infrastructures linking genome, phenome, and exposome.

I play a leadership role in TISLab as the Associate Director of Translational Environmental Science. In this capacity, I work to develop data standards and schemas for linking environmental and patient data. I am a Multi-PI for the Data Management Core in BioData Catalyst, I serve on the Environmental Health Language Collaborative Executive Committee, and I participated in a workshop at the Banbury Center, “Integrating Exposomics into the Biomedical Enterprise”. My past projects include the NCATS Biomedical Data Translator and the GenoPhenoEnvo Project.

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Anne Thessen in UNC Genetics News

Anne Thessen
  • Genetics