Director, Calit2 at UC San Diego
Quantifying the Evolution of a Human Body
To truly understand the state of the human body in health or disease, we now realize that we must consider a much more complex system than medical science considered heretofore. This is because we now know that the human body is host to a time-varying microbial ecology containing ten times the number of DNA-bearing cells as in the human body and these microbes contain 100 times the number of DNA genes that our human DNA does. The microbial component of our “superorganism” is comprised of hundreds of species with immense biodiversity. Exponential decrease in the cost of genetic sequencing has enabled scientists to finally “read out” the nature of the changes in the microbial ecology in people in health and with disease. To put a more personal face on the “patient of the future,” I have been collecting massive amounts of longitudinal data from my own body over the last five years, including blood biomarkers and stool microbiome samples, which reveals detailed examples of the episodic evolution of the coupled immune-microbial system. As similar techniques become more widely applied, we can look forward to revolutionary changes in medical practice over the next decade.
Larry Smarr is the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a UC San Diego/UC Irvine partnership, and holds the Harry E. Gruber professorship in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) of UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. Before that he was the founding director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006 he received the IEEE Computer Society Tsutomu Kanai Award for his lifetime achievements in distributed computing systems and in 2014 the Golden Goose Award. He served on the NASA Advisory Council to 4 NASA Administrators, was chair of the NASA Information Technology Infrastructure Committee and the NSF Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure, a member of the DOE Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee and ESnet Policy Board, and for 8 years he was a member of the NIH Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, serving 3 directors. His personal interests include growing orchids, snorkeling coral reefs, and quantifying the state of his body.