The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
School of Biomedical Informatics and
School of Public Health
Dr. Zhao has broad interests in the area of bioinformatics, systems biology, precision medicine, translational science, and big data science. In addition to his independent research projects to study genetic architecture of complex disease and regulatory mechanisms, he has also actively collaborated with investigators university-wide, nationally and internationally. Projects and techniques are below.
Deciphering causal roles of DNA variation and gene expression in complex disease.
With the inspiration of many recent discoveries that a substantial fraction of the genomic variation affecting risk of common disease is located in regulatory regions, in this project, we combine bioinformatics, statistical genetics, and phenotype and electronic medical record (EMR) data mining to develop novel analytical strategies that maximally leverage regulatory information from both genotype and expression, aiming to predict phenotype using transcriptomic alteration with DNA variation.
Precision medicine in cancer
Since 2009, our lab has applied next generation sequencing to discover actionable mutations in cancer, developed bioinformatics approaches to detect cancer driver mutations and genes from massive cancer genomic data, studied the downstream events driven by a cancer driver mutation, and developed pharmacogenomics approaches to identify existing drugs for new disease (drug repositioning). We have developed a series of methods, tools and databases in such studies as well.
Disease gene network/pathway analysis
Molecular mechanisms of complex diseases are much more complicated than previous thought. Rather than the traditional approaches to studying single genes or locus, we investigate gene networks/pathways in complex diseases especially in psychiatric disorders and cancer. This includes protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks, biological pathways, pathway crosstalk, molecular network analysis by combing PPIs and pathways, and regulatory networks (e.g. microRNA and transcription factor mediated networks).
Bioinformatics and genetic studies of neuropsychiatric disorders
We have developed novel bioinformatics and systems biology approaches and applied them to the genetic data in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. One of the projects is to combine RNA-seq data from postmortem brain tissues of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder subjects with the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) data, so that how genetic changes affecting these two major mental disorders could be better understood.
Education & Training
PhD, MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School, 2000