Geneticist, informatics expert Buetow to lead new research program at ASU

Kenneth H. Buetow

Kenneth H. Buetow, a human geneticist and former director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology at the National Cancer Institute, is joining Arizona State University as director of Computational Sciences and Informatics in the Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative. He will hold the rank of full professor in the School of Life Sciences in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His appointment is effective March 5.

The Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative (CASI) was established in 2009 to leverage ASU’s interdisciplinary research strengths on complex global challenges where an integrated cross-disciplinary effort is essential. The establishment of the Computational Sciences and Informatics program in CASI will represent a major foundational resource in this effort by developing world class computing and modeling expertise and capabilities with breadth and depth in key areas such as agent base modeling, visualization, algorithm development and expert systems in healthcare, the environment and national security.

“Dr. Buetow is one of the world’s top experts in addressing the major challenges facing the biomedical research community in the integration and analysis of the rapidly growing volumes of highly diverse data and their application to improved patient care,” said George Poste, an ASU Regents’ Professor and chief scientist at CASI.

At the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Buetow designed and built one of the largest biomedical computing efforts in the world. He was responsible for coordinating biomedical informatics and information. The NCI center he led focused on speeding scientific discovery and facilitated translational research by coordinating, developing and deploying biomedical informatics systems, infrastructure, tools and data in support of NCI research initiatives.

“Dr. Buetow is bringing the expertise in computation and informatics to establish a hub for many of the projects that are developed or implemented across complex adaptive systems research at ASU,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “We are looking to his leadership to create and expand these crucial capabilities in the management of rapidly growing data to the benefit of ASU's strong research agenda and to position ASU as a leader in building collaborative networks with other institutions.”

“Dr. Buetow’s appointment will bring advanced computational and modeling methods to our biological scientists and health care practitioners,” according to ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi. “He will add an important dimension to our efforts to improve health and health care delivery.”

ASU’s senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Sethuraman Panchanathan, noted that “biomedical research is undergoing massive changes that are driven by the production of daunting volumes of data from genome sequencing and other advanced analytical technologies. Dr. Buetow’s vast experience leading a large enterprise in this field at the National Cancer Institute will be a tremendous asset to our research efforts in complex adaptive systems here at ASU.”

"We are very excited to have Dr. Buetow join the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” said Robert E. Page Jr., ASU vice provost and dean of the college. “He will anchor two major initiatives at ASU: complex adaptive systems and biomedicine."

Buetow, who has a doctorate and a master’s degree in human genetics from the University of Pittsburgh and an undergraduate degree in biology from Indiana University, has spent much of his career in cancer research, approaching cancer as a complex adaptive system. His laboratory has a long history of developing and applying new analytic methods to find genetic components underlying complex traits and was instrumental in the earliest studies developing and applying linkage disequilibrium methods as genetic mapping tools.

“This is an extraordinary time to be in biomedicine,” said Buetow. “New ecosystem models are emerging that use information technology to reweave the very fabric of biomedicine, ushering in a new era of personalized, precision medicine.

“ASU and its New American University model is a unique place to be part of this revolution. The university’s commitment to transdisciplinary programs, especially through its Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative, provides a novel opportunity for me to work at the boundary of what is feasible today,” Buetow said.

The Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative at ASU, under the leadership of three co-directors, cuts across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. In addition to Poste, the other members of the CASI leadership team are Sander van der Leeuw, dean of the School of Sustainability, and Anna Barker, director of ASU’s Transformative Healthcare Networks.

More information about ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative is available at