Research Initiatives
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Research Initiatives

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If you have questions about research at Avera, call the Avera Research Institute at 605-322-3050.


As a state-of-the-art molecular genetics laboratory, Avera Institute for Human Genetics (AIHG) has the capability to undertake a wide range of research projects from small-scale pilot candidate gene projects to large-scale high throughput genome-wide association studies on tens of thousands of samples.

Applied Research

Avera’s research professionals strive to improve lives and solve practical problems by developing marketable products through applied research. Learn more about our current applied research projects including Alucent, an innovative treatment for peripheral vascular disease, and a novel photochemical tissue bonding technology.

Clinical Research

Several clinical research studies are currently being conducted at the Avera Institute for Human Genetics including:

Behavioral Genetics

Psychiatric Pharmacogenomics

The state of South Dakota approached AIHG to help reduce individual patient’s medication burden and optimize prescription therapy to improve clinical outcomes. The subsequent clinical study focused on a small, defined population residing at the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC), which serves individuals with developmental disabilities and co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Interestingly, eleven of the 150 residents of SDDC utilize over $1,000 per month just for medications.

Approximately 50 residents with high numbers of medications used per month were approached to participate in the study. Eligibility of residents was determined by the treatment team which consists of three or four of the following professionals: treating psychologist, behavior therapist, case manager, supervisors, counselors, dietitians, physician assistants, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

The goal of the study was to develop a process for utilizing pharmacogenomic analysis as a strategy to improve the quality of life, increase safety, reduce medication burden and enhance effectiveness of medications in people with psychiatric illnesses and developmental disabilities. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary service could be developed into a standard screening and consultation tool for health care providers to utilize when determining the most appropriate medication for their patients.

Learn more about Avera’s current pharmacogenomic product, GeneFolio.

Cancer Genetics

Current clinical cancer research studies at Avera include:

Scientific Research

By using genetic approaches, we’re also investigating genes that may define risk and protective factors. Major scientific research projects planned or currently underway at the Avera Institute for Human Genetics (AIHG) include:

Twin Research

As one of the recipients of a multi-site grant awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health, AIHG received a total of $2,625,500 in funding over two years (9/30/09 to 9/30/11) for a twins study.

During this time, Avera partnered with the Netherlands Twin Register to collect DNA from 4,414 twins in the Netherlands, who have been followed from birth until age 22. This study allowed us to identify new genetic influences on child psychiatric illness which in turn has led to improved diagnostic and treatment approaches.

The project was the first single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)/copy number variation (CNV) and genome-wide association study of common childhood psychopathologies using an extended twin-sibling family study design.

An additional outcome of this study was the development of South Dakota’s first and only twin register – the Avera Twin Register.

Cancer Research

Breast Cancer Collaborative Registry

Individuals who receive a breast cancer diagnosis, have a history of breast cancer or are at high risk of developing breast cancer are eligible to participate in the Breast Cancer Collaborative Registry (BCCR) project.

Information collected in BCCR questionnaires and biological samples allow researchers to study the factors that influence the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as the prognosis and quality of life of breast cancer patients. They may also identify individuals who might benefit from screening measures to detect breast cancer at an earlier and potentially more treatable stage.

Gynecological Oncology Biobanking

The gynecologic oncology program at Avera Cancer Institute partners with AIHG and Avera Research Institute to collect tissue samples during surgical procedures for patients with ovarian, uterine, cervical and other gynecologic cancers. By looking at the specimens, researchers are able to study:

  • Differences between tumors in patients
  • Differences in tumors from the same patient
  • Genetic markers or mutations

This information also helps physicians create personalized treatment regimens.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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