Biostatisticians crunch data vital to AIDS research, genetics

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Broadly defined, statistical genetics is the development of methods to analyze DNA. In recent years, the term has been more specifically applied to gene mapping, or the search for locations of genes related to diseases, and to the analysis of drug therapies. Statistical genetics plays a significant role in what some experts predict to be the future of pharmaceutical therapy — individualized medicine. “The idea is that you would monitor a patient regularly to gain a sense of when a drug treatment has become ineffective,” explained Stephen Lagakos, chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health. “You would then know when to change a drug and what would be a good replacement based on a genetic profile of the patient.” Although applicable to diseases such as cancer, individualized medicine holds much promise in treating AIDS, where HIV notoriously mutates to defy therapies.