New research consortium aims to build critical bridge between environmental and health data

You can sequence your unique genome in search of genetic mutations that cause disease. But it’s much harder to study your ‘exposome’ — the cumulative effect of your environment on your health over a lifetime.

Now a pan-Canadian research consortium wants to connect detailed environmental data with public health data to study Canadians’ exposomes. Dr. Jeffrey Brook, an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and assistant professor with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is leading the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE), a first-of-its-kind effort and a Signature Initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“Every person has a unique history of what they’re exposed to in their environment, from before they were born to their present age,” says Brook, who is spending eight months away from his primary role as a senior research scientist with Environment Canada to lead CANUE out of the University of Toronto. “It’s like a fingerprint or unique signature — and that profile is as important in determining your health as your genome.”

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