UC Berkeley, UCSF Launch Computational Precision Health Program

October 21, 2021

By Bio-IT World Staff 

October 21, 2021 | Funded by an anonymous $50 million gift, the University of California, Berkeley and UC San Francisco yesterday announced a joint program in computational precision health.

“Computational precision health bridges medicine, computing, statistics, public health and social science, to create new advances in treating and preventing disease and promoting health,” Atul Butte, Director, Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute, UCSF, wrote on LinkedIn. “This partnership will be a transformative opportunity that transcends traditional boundaries among institutions, disciplines, and scholarly communities to establish the world-leading program in this space.” 

The joint program is being led by co-directors from both campuses who have expertise in medicine, public health and data science: Ida Sim MD, PhD, professor of medicine at UCSF and Maya Petersen MD, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Berkeley. By creating a joint faculty group between UC Berkeley and UCSF, the two universities will simultaneously advance computing and data science with biomedicine and health, enabling solutions that would not have been imagined by either discipline alone. 

Shared administration of the program by Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society and UCSF’s Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute, along with the involvement of 39 faculty in multiple schools and departments at both UC campuses, will help facilitate additional education and research collaborations in computational precision health. 

The research of the joint faculty will enable new and more personalized techniques for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease. Working together, the two universities will develop new methods for data-driven clinical care, early detection and intervention, new ways to predict outcomes, and new targeted treatments which are both more effective and have fewer side effects. This ground-breaking faculty and educational program will transcend traditional boundaries among institutions, disciplines and scholarly communities to transform the future of health and health care. 

The program will train the next generation of researchers to design, build and test innovations such as machine learning, digital health and clinical decision support systems within real-world clinical and public health settings to ensure that solutions meet real-world needs. Recognizing that algorithms are currently being created that too often exacerbate rather than mitigate racial and other biases, the program will ensure that equity, fairness, accountability and transparency will be hallmarks of all of its educational and research activities.

A PhD degree program is anticipated by 2023 that will be jointly conferred by UC Berkeley and UCSF, leveraging the institutions’ research strengths: computer science and statistics at Berkeley, health care and health sciences at UCSF, and population and public health sciences at both campuses.