Biostatistics Professors Publishing Book to Advance Understanding of Biomarkers

professor jihnhee yu.

Biostatistics Professor Jihnhee Yu

professor albert vexler.

Biostatistics Professor Albert Vexler

Published August 6, 2020

“Building on strong research and mentoring records, we will offer novel and comprehensive levels of understanding on the roles of biomarkers.”
Albert Vexler, PhD, professor
School of Public Health and Health Professions Department of Biostatistics

Biostatistics professors Albert Vexler, PhD, and Jihnhee Yu, PhD, have contracted with Elsevier Publishing to write “Modern Inference Based on Health-Related Markers: Biomarkers and Statistical Decision Making,” a book focusing on cutting-edge investigations related to biomarkers.

Biomarkers are medical signs–from blood pressure, heart rate, metabolic activity and x-ray findings, to complex tissue and genetic tests—that can help predict, diagnose, monitor and treat disease, among their vital uses. They are measurable, objective and growing in importance in evidence-based patient care.

The new book will feature work by renowned researchers who are leaders of the fields of epidemiology and biostatistics, provide extensive discussions related to emerging biomarker issues, and hopefully bridge the gaps among disciplines like theoretical and practical research in biomarkers. For example, University of Hawaii Professor Istvan Szapudi, PhD, will write about recent research related to efficient and low-cost evaluations of COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test scores through sample pooling. Sample pooling, in which samples from several people are pooled and tested together, of COVID-19 PCR tests has been recently evaluated as a low-cost alternative to individual tests and shown to be efficient as long as the fraction of the infected population is relatively small. Other chapter topics include Measuring Health Issues; Emerging Fields of Biomarkers; Designing Health Studies and Their Implementations; Clinical Trials, Their Practices and Applications; and Different Aspects of Genetic Markers.

According to Vexler, “Professor Yu and I have recognized that, although we obviously have growing needs of biomarkers-based discoveries, common existing education programs rarely offer systematic courses that teach research methods related to biomarkers and their applications, including relevant biostatistical tools.” Along with the book development, Vexler and Yu aim to assemble relevant work of epidemiology and biostatistics leaders and develop “small-education” (based on smaller classes with teachers as guides and fellow inquirers) modules and software related to a web-based course and workshops.

“We plan to apply, evaluate and then systematically improve the methods of the education resources related to biomarkers,” Vexler added, “and hope to initiate an extensive trans-disciplinary collaboration. Building on strong research and mentoring records, we will offer novel and comprehensive levels of understanding on the roles of biomarkers.”

Vexler and Yu “hope to use this in our small education system—for seminar prep and for web-based workshops,” Vexler said. They will use several chapters in their biostatistics courses and may also use it as a course textbook.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the publishing date of the new book is to be determined. However, Vexler and Yu welcome additional chapters. “We’re open to more opinions and suggestions,” Vexler said.

Vexler and Yu have published a number of papers and a book together, as well as serving as principal investigators on several grants. Vexler has long worked on biomarker evaluations, beginning with a post-doctoral position in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development where he looked at topics like how time to pregnancy and relates to multiple births and sleep duration’s impact on weight and weight gain in children at high risk for adult obesity. At UB, he continued to collaborate with National Institutes of Health investigators evaluating practical aspects of biomarkers methodologies. Through these collaborations, he was awarded grant support from the NIH for his work “New Biomarkers Methodology Collaboration.”

“I hope to convince our community of the usefulness and the very important role of academic research in our school that is an academic unit,” Vexler said. “One of main measures of such research can be based on publications in valued academic journals and scientific books. According to talks by UB’s President Satish Tripathi in the UB Faculty Senate, scientific publications provide us recognition and reputation across national and international research institutions. Publications lead to more students in our school and more successful grant applications and support.”

Vexler’s current research focuses on problems in multivariate testing, a way to test a hypothesis by changing multiple variables. His most recent paper, “Univariate Likelihood Projections and Characterizations of the Multivariate Normal Distribution,” is in press at the Journal of Multivariate Analysis. “Particularly, this research has been inspired by collaborations with [SUNY Distinguished Professor] Paresh Dandona and [Research Associate Professor] Husam Ghanim from UB’s Department of Medicine,” Vexler added.

“It turns out that there are a lot of open theoretical questions in the context of multitasks related to multiple dependent outcomes related to diabetic studies.”