Gold medalist at forefront of big-data revolution
By Dixon Tam
Faraz Hach originally came to Simon Fraser University from Iran in 2004 to do his master’s degree in computing science but was convinced to also complete his PhD on Burnaby Mountain.
And the 2014 Governor General’s Gold Medal recipient hasn’t looked back since. He receives the medal for achieving the highest scholastic standing in an SFU graduate program.
Hach is the main architect of a world-renowned genetic sequence-mapping tool that has put him at the forefront of the big-data revolution currently taking place in biomedical sciences.
With the advent of new, high-throughput sequencing platforms, researchers can now sequence a human genome for less than $5,000.
“The opportunities that these platforms provide are endless,” says Hach, adding the data can be used to detect structural aberrations in the genome or transcriptome.
“In most of the analysis, the very first step is to find the location of short sequences in reference genome of the same or similar species—this step is called mapping. Sequence mapping is one of the primary and time-consuming steps.
“The tools we have developed for sequence mapping promise to find all the possible mapping locations of the given short DNA sequence in the reference genome in an efficient manner.
“This also means reduction in cost of the analysis.”
Hach’s important research has also led to a post-doctoral appointment between SFU and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, where he is developing new computational tools to analyze prostate cancer sequencing data.
“If we can produce similar or better results in comparison to the current technologies being used, it will help us to do detailed analysis of patients’ data with less invasive techniques more often,” he says.
Finally, he is also collaborating with Indiana University’s School of Medicine to develop a computational tool to detect causes of breast cancer.