Candidate: Pierre Franquin
Advisor: Bud Mishra

On populations, haplotypes and genome sequencing

Abstract:

Population genetics has seen a renewed interest since the completion of the human genome project. With the availability of rapidly growing volumes of genomic data, the scientific and medical communities have been optimistic that better understanding of human diseases as well as their treatment were imminent. Many population genomic models and association studies have been designed (or redesigned) to address these problems. For instance, the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) had raised hopes for finding disease markers, personalized medicine and rational drug design. Yet, as of today, they have not yielded results that live up to their promise and have only led to a frustrating disappointment.

Intrigued, but not deterred by these challenges, this dissertation visits the different aspects of these problems. In the first part, we will review the different models and theories of population genetics that are now challenged. We will propose our own implementation of a model to test different hypotheses. This effort will hopefully help us in understanding whether our expectations were unreasonably too high or if we had ignored a crucial piece of information. When discussing association studies, we must not forget that we rely on data that are produced by sequencing technologies, so far available. We have to ensure that the quality of this data is reasonably good for GWAS. Unfortunately, as we will see in the second part, despite the existence of a diverse set of sequencing technologies, none of them can produce haplotypes with phasing, which appears to be the most important type of sequence data needed for association studies. To address this challenge, we propose a novel approach for a sequencing technology, called SMASH that allows us to create the quality and type of haplotypic genome sequences necessary for efficient population genetics.