Collaborative research is of growing importance at the University of St Andrews. One such initiative that encourages the development of cross-border conversations and networks is the collaborative research grant between the University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn. Piloting this year, the grant is designed to establish global partnerships. One of two recipients of the 2021 Collaborative Research Grant is a study led by Dr Silvia Paracchini (School of Medicine, University of St Andrews) and Professor Markus M. Nöthen (Institute of Human Genetics, School of Medicine, University of Bonn).
The study aims to apply machine learning methods to the interpretation of large-scale genomic data in the context of psychiatric disorders. Machine learning will be used to model both clinical and genomic data. The goals are to identify better ways to categorise patients and to assess the contribution of multiple genetic factors, as opposed to current methods focusing on individual markers. The project builds on the established research interests and expertise of researchers in St Andrews and Bonn, particularly in machine learning, genomics, and psychiatry. Within St Andrews, collaborators in this study are spread across the School of Medicine, the School of Computer Science and the School of Maths and Statistics.
The study also joins forces with Canon Medical Research Europe, experts in big data and machine learning. They are established world leaders in the analysis of imaging data using artificial intelligence. Their expertise will be particularly relevant for the integration of brain imaging data, pertinent in this project. The study draws on the UK Biobank, an important source of data for this study, and the grant will fund part of the access fees and computer requirements for this analysis. The project is very ambitious and it is not realistic to achieve the final goal in the next two years. However, the collaborative grant has allowed different Institutions and research groups to come together and start a new line of research. A key element of the project will be training and cross-disciplinary events aimed at early career researchers.
While COVID-19 has demonstrated new ways to conduct cross-border research rendering some travel and travel costs unnecessary, the grant will be used to support PhD researchers in attending the European Society of Human Genetics Conferences, where results will be presented and in person satellite meeting will be organised to specifically support this collaboration.
The collaborative research grant funding is now open for 2022.