Institute of Translational Genomics

Welcome to the Institute of Translational Genomics at USC.

Welcome to the USC Institute of Translational Genomics

Our institute works to make healthcare smarter because future improvements in personalized medicine will benefit and ultimately serve a diverse group of people. Advancing precision medicine to affect diverse populations requires diversity in leadership. Our members and scientists span diverse backgrounds and experiences. We are committed to combining the best genome science with clinical care to improve people's lives. Members come from within the Department of Translational Genomics and other departments and affiliates.


John D. Carpten, Ph.D.

John Carpten serves director of the Institute of Translational Genomics, building a collaborative effort to redefine and further precision medicine. Carpten is an award-winning genomic scientist who is renowned for his key discoveries and contributions in the fields of cancer genetics and genomics.

David W. Craig, Ph.D.

David CraigCo-directing the Institute for Translational Genomics. By combining his skills in bioinformatics and big data analytics, he creates a world-class training environment that will help the next generation of doctors, scientists, and computer scientists. We need a top-notch medical school, cutting-edge biotechnology, and an informatics infrastructure to reach these goals.

Vision and Direction

Where our team strives to make healthcare smarter, based on a vision that future advances in personalized medicine will build from, benefit, and ultimately serve an incredibly diverse set of individuals.

Medicine is undergoing one of its most significant transitions in recent history. For the first time, we can treat patients based not on what works best for the average person in the population but on what will work best for each patient.

Genomic discoveries that have changed the game have made personalized medicine, also called "precision medicine," possible. Our deep understanding of DNA and how it varies from person to person is powering a new golden age of diagnostics, treatment, and predictive and preventive medicine. In areas like cancer and rare diseases, however, it is just the beginning as we use high-throughput technology to combine information at the molecular and systems levels to improve patient outcomes.

Focus On The Value of Diversity

We started USC Translational Genomics to help advance precision medicine. It is a home for scientists and doctors who want to change how healthcare is done by putting precision medicine into practice and making it better for everyone. We believe that precision medicine doesn’t build or benefit from focusing on one population but instead requires studies involving diverse people. In many ways, the diversity of Los Angeles is like the future diversity of healthcare in the U.S., which will show its challenges and opportunities.

At the USC Keck School of Medicine, which has cutting-edge scientific facilities, our well-known team of researchers and doctors works together to make genome-based medicine live up to its full potential.

For precision medicine to live up to its promise, we need to know how molecular and genetic differences vary from person to person. We believe that precision medicine doesn’t build or benefit from focusing on one population but instead requires studies involving diverse populations.

In many ways, the diversity of Los Angeles is like the future diversity of healthcare in the U.S., which will show its challenges and opportunities. We launched USC Translational Genomics as a catalyst for precision medicine—a home for scientific and medical experts dedicated to challenging the status quo in healthcare by implementing and advancing precision medicine across all populations.

With a foundation of cutting-edge scientific facilities at the USC Keck School of Medicine, our renowned team of researchers and physicians is collaborating to realize the potential of genome-based medicine with the understanding that these advances will serve the diverse clinical populations that will make up the future of healthcare.
 David Craig Quote

What is translational genomics?

noun. the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes.

pre•ci•sion med•i•cine
noun. an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle to tailor care for each person.

Building A New Vision at USC


USC Translational Genomics was founded in January 2016 under the leadership of John Carpten, Ph.D., and David W. Craig, Ph.D., who both came to Keck School of Medicine from TGen in Arizona.

USC Translational Genomics includes a truly transdisciplinary team of biologists, geneticists, and data scientists working hand in hand with engineers, chemists, and clinicians across USC departments, campuses, and hospitals.

Together, we work in the lab and behind the computer to advance our understanding of a range of diseases and disorders — from neurological diseases and rare genetic syndromes to adult and pediatric cancers — and in the clinic to produce practical applications. We are also committed to understanding why certain diseases and disorders are more prevalent among different populations.

In addition to our research and clinical efforts, USC Translational Genomics began to offer degree programs in innovative areas of biomedical research in 2017. We are dedicated to training the field’s next generation of leaders in genomics, biotechnology, and biomedical informatics.



Our scientists are utilizing next-generation genomic (DNA), transcriptomic (RNA), and proteomic (protein) sequencing technologies to shed light on a variety of diseases, and were among the first to prospectively apply these to improving patient care and treatment. For example, David W. Craig and John Carpten helped lead one of the first studies of whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

This foundational work led to other studies in late-stage metastatic oncology including melanoma, pediatric oncology, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma, and colorectal cancer.

As part of their efforts, they helped establish standards and frameworks by which groups across the world apply clinical medicine. They led the development of one of the first CAP/CLIA certified laboratories focused on integrated analysis of whole-genome and transcriptome data, working with the FDA and others on establishing best practices for applying these approaches in clinical studies. They have helped lead the establishment of standards and references for other laboratories to implement similar approaches, partnering with researchers at healthcare systems across the country.

As part of the new department and institute, they are building and expanding such efforts to tackle integration across multiple scales and systems. They are using the latest methods and technology and integrating these directly within the Keck healthcare system from the ground up.

Precision diagnostics

These technologies can treat, and they can also diagnose from a molecular and genetic level. Bodour Salhia, Ph.D., has developed a way to test for the presence of gene modifications via circulating tumor DNA taken from blood samples. The hope

is that these could be used as biomarkers to find previously undetectable evidence of breast cancer that is likely to return or spread to other parts of the body. This could be transformative for the 234,000 Americans who develop breast cancer annually, 41,000 of whom die from the disease, usually due to metastasis that is detected too late for effective treatment.


David W. Craig has utilized integrated analysis of DNA and RNA to improve diagnosis in children with rare neurological conditions. He helped to establish a research clinic enrolling thousands of individuals across hundreds of families, developing approaches that improved diagnosing children at a genetic level from 5% to nearly 50%. He is now partnering with Keck leaders in cardiothoracic surgery to apply these methods in new populations and conditions.
Advancing precision medicine means building and creating the informatics systems to gather, integrate, and analyze patient data at massive scales, across multiple dimensions and time points in decision making, for clinical value and utility. The scale of data our scientists sift through on each patient is massive and requires the integration of bioinformatics, statistics, genetics, epidemiology, clinical medicine and public and global health reports. Working with David W. Craig, Enrique I. Velazquez-Villarreal, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., is integrating clinical and genomic data from a variety of technologies to assemble a more complete reference library in hopes of developing machine-learning tools that more rapidly help physicians access the critical decision-making datapoints they need.

Data integration

We are building transformative data-driven discovery platforms where researchers can collaborate daily and make discoveries that would not otherwise be possible under the current paradigm of fragmented research groups working in isolation. These platforms are mission- driven around principles of linked data, integrative analysis, structured curation, inherent sharing, and data harmonization across researchers and environments.

Empowering users through genomics and bioinformatics

The plating prowess and bioinformatic brains in the halls of Norris are available for the entire Keck academic and clinical community. “We want to leverage our strengths to increase the research potential of departments in a variety of disciplines, and to assist patients across the disease spectrum,” says Director John D. Carpten.

One of the ways this will be achieved is through the newly launched Keck Genomics Platform. Under the direction of Zarko Manojlovic, Ph.D., the service offers a range of high-tech, high-throughput sequencing, as well as the bioinformatic backbone and support to be able to interpret the data generated. Technicians at the center also have expertise in preparing complex and fragile samples, allowing researchers and physicians to test materials that have previously been considered unusable.

“We can truly help the individual understand the sequencing of the data and the data itself, as well as the analysis,” Manojlovic says.
Manojlovic partners with physicians to bring precision medicine to the clinic in a way that’s not just a data dump. He learns from the physicians— about their needs, challenges, and the day-to-day impacts of precision medicine on their clinical practice—and educates them about what kind of data they can get from samples, how to collect and prepare them, and the relative costs.

Together with David W. Craig, his team is working to create a cradle-to-grave next-generation sequencing data management and bioinformatics platform that focuses on downstream interpretation and accelerates discovery through close collaborations between experimental and informatic groups.

How to get involved

To learn more about Translational Genomics @ USC research and education:

Visit: E-mail: Call: (323) 865-1591 Fax: (323) 442-2490