The research group Computational Genomics and Epidemiology is headed by Dr. Alice McHardy
The research of the group focuses on the data-driven analysis of biological questions, as well as method development to solve prediction and classification problems for large biological data sets. In the area of metagenomics, we are working on composition-based techniques for the phylogenetic classification or binning by population of sequence fragments.
A second focus of research is influenza evolution. Endemic influenza by estimates causes 500.000 deaths each year, in particular among young children and the elderly. Immunity can be achieved either by infection or vaccination, but is non permanent, due to the rapid evolution of the virus. Accordingly, the composition of influenza vaccines is updated annually, following suggestions of the World Health Organization. Although a successful match to the dominant circulating strain is achieved in the majority of cases, there is room for improvement. Using statistical modeling and theoretical simulations with a stochastic epidemiological model, we are investigating the short-term evolutionary dynamics of the virus to identify further molecular determinants of viral fitness with relevance to vaccine strain selection.