Research Focus

We use the latest tools and technologies to gather and analyze large data sets and make insights that lead to transformative patient care.

Scientists today can gather millions of data points from one tiny sample, generating more data than was imaginable even 10 years ago. But how do you find meaningful patterns in data sets that large? Enter bioinformatics.

Bioinformatics brings together computer science, statistics and biology to analyze and interpret data. Scientists can extract huge amounts of information from biological data such as blood, tissue and saliva samples. Then, bioinformaticians sort through those data sets to find answers to questions like how and why Alzheimer’s disease develops, or how a person’s genetics may make them susceptible to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Our bioinformaticians implement the latest tools and technologies across our institute, including:

  • RNA seq, to study which genes are expressed and what they’re doing inside of cells and tissues.
  • ChIP seq, to study where protein binds to DNA.
  • Single-cell RNA sequencing, to study gene expression in individual cells.
  • Single-cell multiomics, to provide highly detailed information about the DNA, RNA and proteins inside of individual cells.
  • Spatial transcriptomics, to study the spatial distributions of gene expression inside of tissues and organs.

Bioinformatics Projects at the IBRI

Using machine learning to understand T2D outcomes

Teaming up with the Kalwat Lab, our bioinformatics team is examining thousands of cells associated with T2D, to identify which ones may be tied to outcomes like T2D status, A1C level and body mass index.

IBRI Director of Bioinformatics Travis Johnson, PhD, is using an innovative tool he developed called DEGAS to fuel this research. DEGAS is a machine learning tool that adds context to high dimensional datasets using deep learning. This research aims to identify cells associated with certain disease outcomes, aiming to find patterns that could explain how and why certain outcomes happen and open the door to new molecular biomarkers and novel treatment targets. DEGAS can be applied to most diseases. Johnson also has used it to make insights in multiple cancers and neurodegenerative disorders.

Investigating whether certain neurons affect the progression of obesity and T2D?

IBRI Assistant Investigator Jonathan Flak, PhD, focuses on the role the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) plays in diabetes. His lab is working with our bioinformatics team to better understand how the presence or absence of certain neurons affects the development of obesity and T2D.

Staff Snapshot

Travis S. Johnson, PhD

Travis S. Johnson, PhD

Director of Bioinformatics

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2020
  • Master of Science, The Ohio State University, 2016
  • Bachelor of Science, Ohio University, 2014


Scientists interested in single cell, spatial transcriptomics, multiomic or applied machine learning data analysis should contact Travis S. Johnson, PhD.

Lab Positions

Please reach out to Travis S. Johnson, PhD, to learn about potential opportunities.