Berkeley statisticians help find function of “junk” DNA in human genome

UC Berkeley statisticians played a key role in the large ENCODE consortium that determined the function of what was thought to be “junk” DNA in the human genome.The consortium’s 440+ scientists reported their findings in 30 journal papers on Sept. 6.

Peter Bickel, professor of statistics, was the unofficial lead statistician for the group, which involved scientists from around the world. Bickel and his UC Berkeley colleagues provided several of the tools biologists needed to uncover the functional roles of DNA outside protein coding genes.

Bickel’s coauthors in the Department of Statistics included post-doctoral fellow James “Ben” Brown; associate professor Haiyan Huang; graduate students Jingyi Jessica Li and Nathan P. Boley; former post-doctoral fellow Qunhua Li; and former visiting-scholar Balázs Bánfai.

For more information about the ENCODE project, which was coordinated by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health, link to the NHGRI web site.