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Yang Luo


KTRR Senior Research Fellow in Data Science

I am a Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research (KTRR) Senior Research Fellow in Data Science. My lab develops statistical methods and computational software to better understand the genetic contribution to immune-mediated traits.

Our research focuses on identifying human genetic variations that affect risks for immune-mediated traits, and applying that knowledge to improve healthcare. We focus in particular on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region. The MHC region encodes proteins that play a vital role in our immune response. For a vast number of immune-mediated traits, MHC accounts for more genetic heritability than all other genomic variations combined. However, the exact molecular mechanisms behind MHC disease risk are yet unsolved. Knowledge of this would have an impact on subsequent cellular and clinical outcomes. We leverage large biobank data (e.g. UK Biobank and Biobank Japan), gene expression data (e.g. from GTEx), and protein concentrations (e.g. from Omicscience), to understand the precise biological mechanisms through which genetic variation is mediated to modulate risk of immune-mediated traits.

My early training was in Mathematics where I obtained my MSci from Imperial College London, and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge with Professor Lorenz Wernisch. During my time at the University of Cambridge, I became aware of the exponential explosion in genomic data generation and was struck by the opportunity for computational and statistical science to drive advances. This realization inspired me to turn towards genetics, and I sought postdoctoral training with Dr. Jeffrey Barrett at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in human genetics. My research there centred around uncovering the genetic factors that predispose humans to tuberculosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Subsequently, I became an instructor at Harvard Medical School with Professor Soumya Raychaudhuri, where I have been focused on the multi-ancestry genetic study of complex traits, including the study of TB progression in Peruvians, developing novel statistical methods for dissecting the genetic architecture of polygenic traits in admixed populations, and constructing a global HLA haplotype panel to facilitate association and fine-mapping in the MHC region.