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SA Branch Meeting - Dr Beben Benyamin & Dr Ang Zhou

  • 29 May 2019
  • 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM (CAST)
  • Engineering & Math EM213, North Terrace, The University of Adelaide

Branch Meeting - Wednesday, 29th May 2019

The South Australian Branch of the Statistical Society would like to invite you to the May meeting of the 2019 program.

Venue: Engineering and Math Science Building, Room EM213, North Terrace, The University of Adelaide. A campus map is available at

***Please note that most entrance doors to Adelaide University buildings close at 6pm so make sure you arrive in time for the talk.


5:30pm - Refreshments in the Lecture Theatre

6:05pm - General Meeting Talk

7:30pm - A dinner will be held after the meeting at Jasmine Restaurant, 31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide SA 5000. Please RSVP for dinner to by 27th May as we are usually unable to change the booking numbers at the last minute.

Speaker 1: Dr Beben Benyamin

Topic: Causal inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomisation


Epidemiological studies have shown that a number of risk factors, such as blood biochemical markers or lifestyle, are associated with disease. However, we don’t know whether these associations are causal or due to confounding factors. To infer the causality of these associations, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) is the gold standard. However, for many reasons, an RCT is not feasible, ethical or cost effective. A statistical method called Mendelian Randomization (MR) has been suggested to mediate between the epidemiological association and RCT. MR provides a framework that mimics an RCT to provide an estimate of the causal effect of risk factor on disease. This approach exploits the fact that the assignment of genotype is random with respect to confounders. Individuals can, therefore, be randomly “assigned” into two different alleles, equivalent to the assignment of individuals into placebo and intervention in an RCT design. In this talk, I will discuss the origin of the method, basic principles and some applications to infer the causal effect of risk factors on disease.


Dr Beben Benyamin is Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics at the Australian Centre for Precision Health, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and an Honorary Senior Fellow at Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the University of Queensland. He uses statistics applied to large-scale ‘omics’ data to dissect the genetic mechanisms underlying human complex traits and diseases. He graduated from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) Indonesia (2000), University of Sydney, Australia (2002) and University of Edinburgh, UK (2007) under the supervision of Prof Peter Visscher FRS. He did his postdoctoral training at the Genetic Epidemiology Group, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (2007-2011). Prior joining University of South Australia, he worked as Research Fellow at the Program in Complex Trait Genomics, the University of Queensland (2012-2017). Some of his research has been published in Nature, Nature Genetics and Nature Communications. His current interests are on the application of statistical genomic methods to neurodegenerative diseases, especially motor neuron disease and on trans-ethnic genomic analyses to dissect the transferability of genomic findings in European samples on other populations, such as Asians.

Speaker 2: Dr Ang Zhou

Topic: MR-PheWAS: Opportunities and challenges


The phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) is a hypothesis-free approach to screen for diseases/phenotypes associated with the risk factor of interest. When coupled with Mendelian randomization analyses (MR) in which genetic variants are used as proxy markers for the risk factor of interest, MR-PheWAS has the potential to uncover the totality of health consequences linked to the risk factor. Because of its hypothesis-free nature, MR-PheWAS also has the capacity to capture novel associations for which no prior evidence is available, providing insights to disease mechanisms. In my talk, I will use BMI MR-PheWAS as an example to highlight the opportunities and challenges with the MR-PheWAS technique


Dr Ang Zhou training in medical sciences (Ph.D.) and Biostatistics (M.A.). He is working as a research associate in the nutritional and genetic epidemiology group at the Australian Centre for Precision Health. Ang applies methodologies in genetic epidemiology to understand causal associations between modifiable lifestyle factors and health outcomes related to cognitive and cardiometabolic functions. His research also involves understanding gene-environment interplay on health outcomes.

Feel free to forward this meeting notice to colleagues, all welcome.

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