BIOT S-150 Medical Genomics and Genetics

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3-week session II | CRN 33104

The study of genomes is changing the understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of life. As such, it profoundly affects our understanding of human health and provides new, sophisticated means to change the practice of medicine in the future. The aim of the course is to educate students about the new horizons medical genomics and genetics have opened by combining both basic and applied aspects of the field. We begin with the foundations of genome research. We discuss the structure and function of the human genome and compare it to the genome of simpler model organisms. We cover the traditional means of mapping disease-related genes onto the human genome. We then shift to the modern genome era and cover means by which disease genes are discovered, mapped onto the genome, and subsequently characterized. We cover recent advances in gene regulation networks, transcriptomics and proteomics, and how they affect human health and medicine. We address the various means by which deep DNA sequencing is revolutionizing our understanding of genomes and their function within cells. A major focus is on cancer, the disease of the genome. We learn how genomes break apart in cancer, and how cancer genomes accumulate key mutations on their way to become transformed. We learn about key genes in the human genome that prevent cancer, and how their mutations lead to the collapse of ordered cellular behavior. We explore modern genomics tools to diagnose the molecular signatures of a diversity of cancers and to predict prognosis and successes of particular treatments. We are exposed to challenges in genome-based cancer therapy and the challenges associated with chemotherapy. Turning to infectious diseases, we study host-microbe interactions. A second focus is on the microbiome—the collection of all bacterial species in our body, which collectively outnumber our own cells 10:1, and our own genes 100:1. We shift then to drug design, and study how drugs affect physiology, and interact with one another, in antibiotics and chemotherapy. We also study how computers are used to design drugs. Finally we invoke the notion of personalized medicine and study how further medical care would be tailored to people according to their own individual genomics and genetics. Throughout the course we study how evolution has shaped our genome, and devote a special place to explain its role in health, disease, and medicine.

Course information
Class meetings

On campus
Mondays-Thursdays, 3:15-6:15 pm
Sever Hall 208

Start date

Monday, July 10


4 credits

Course tuition


Enrollment status

  • Registration Closed
  • Prerequisites

    BIOS S-14 or the equivalent.


    Not open to Secondary School Program students. Harvard College students see additional information.




    Yitzhak Pilpel, PhD.

    Professor of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science

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