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Image courtesy of Professor Erik Thorsby
Organised by Professor Danny Altmann, Dr Francois Balloux and Dr Rosemary Boyton
This meeting offers a journey from molecules to history, bringing together geneticists, immunologists, anthropologists and historians. Infection has been the most potent evolutionary force in human history, eliminating genes offering poor resistance and selecting for new mutations conferring protection against a threat. Can genetics help us understand natural selection, human evolution and migration over the past 70,000 years?Download the programme here
The proceedings of this meeting have been published in an issue of Philosophical Transactions B.
Biographies and audio recordings are available below.
Professor Danny Altmann, Imperial College London, UK Introduction
Danny Altmann is Professor of Immunology in the Department of Medicine, Imperial College London and, as of 2011, Head of Pathogens, Immunity and Population Health at the Wellcome Trust. He is also Editor in Chief of Immunology. As Head of the Human Disease Immunogenetics Group, his major research interest has been in the immunogenetics of autoimmune diseases and bacterial infections. This has in recent years included a major emphasis on T cell immunity to serious bacterial infections. Prior to joining Imperial College he was a senior scientist in the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre.
Dr Francois Balloux, Imperial College London, UK and SwitzerlandOrganiser
Dr Rosemary Boyton, Imperial College London, UKOrganiser
Rosemary Boyton is Head of the Lung Immunology Group in Imperial College London Department of Medicine and a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Her research group work on fundamental aspects of T lymphocyte polarisation and on models of immune control and inflammation in the lung. She has had a particular interest in the immunogenetics of chronic lung infection.
WelcomeDr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Public Affairs, Royal Society
Dr Stephen Oppenheimer, Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, UK Out-of-Africa, the peopling of continents & islands: tracing uniparental gene trees across the map
Dr Oppenheimer qualified in medicine at Oxford in 1971. From1972-97: a total of 17 years, he was located in the tropics as a paediatrician, with intervening time spent in English universities (London, Oxford, and Liverpool) as bases for overseas secondment. He has published extensively, focussing on the interactions between iron, nutrition, genetics (particularly α+-thalassaemia) and infections esp. malaria. He was Professor of Paediatrics in Malaysia then HK from 1987-94.From 1997-present he returned to Oxford for his children’s education. He published first book: ‘Eden in the East: the drowned continent of Southeast Asia’ in 1998, a multidisciplinary reconstruction of prehistoric migrations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific using climatology, oceanography, archaeology, genetics, linguistics and cultural anthropology; followed by two similar, more genetically focussed books "Out of Eden: the Peopling of the World" 2003 and “The Origins of the British: a genetic detective story”, 2006. He has continued collaborative research with numerous peer-reviewed publications supporting the original reconstructions in his three books and also been an adviser and talking head in a number of related TV documentaries
Professor Mark Jobling, University of Leicester, UKIdentifying genetic traces of historical expansions
Mark Jobling is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the University of Leicester. His group uses human Y chromosome diversity to investigate processes of colonisation, migration and admixture, and to study haploid mutation including ectopic recombination and gene conversion, and natural selection through Y-chromosomal genes. He also applies Y markers to forensics, and to understanding the relationships between Y types and patrilineal surnames. Current projects include next-generation sequencing approaches to understanding sex-chromosomal evolution, and the use of Y-, X- and autosomal haplotypes to investigate the impact and timing of migrations, including those of the Vikings.
Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr, University of Cambridge, UKAfrican origins - the morphological and behavioural evidence of early humans in Africa
Professor Peter Parham FRS, Stanford University, USAPrimate-specific evolution of NK cell receptor recognition of MHC class I
Growing up in London, Peter Parham studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and then went as a Kennedy Scholar to Harvard University, where he obtained a PhD for structural studies on HLA class I performed in Jack Strominger’s laboratory. As a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows Parham spent a year in Walter Bodmer’s group at Oxford University, where with Frances Brodsky he developed monoclonal antibodies against HLA class I and II. Peter Parham joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1980, where he is now Professor of Structural Biology and Microbiology & Immunology. Parham’s research concentrates on the genetics and evolution of MHC class I polymorphisms and their functional interactions with rapidly evolving and comparably polymorphic lymphocyte receptors. Peter Parham has received the Rose Payne, Ceppellini and Festenstein Awards for Immunogenetics, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Professor Marcelo Fernández-Viña, Stanford University, USATracking of Human Migrations by the analysis of the distribution of HLA alleles, lineages and haplotypes in closed and open populations
He has recently joined the Department of Pathology at Stanford University, and previously was a Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston. He is the Co-Chair of the Immunobiology Committee of the CIBMTR. His involvement in Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics started 1982. He is Past President of the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics. He has over 120 peer reviewed publications, many of them focusing on HLA variation in multiple world populations, identifying susceptibility and resistance factors for diseases and in the impact of HLA mismatches in allogeneic transplantation; and more than 10 book chapters. He is Councilor of the International Histocompatibility Workshop and a member of the WHO Nomenclature Committee for Factors of the HLA System. He is Section Editor of Human Immunology. He serves as a HLA Expert Consultant for the National Marrow Donor Program (U.S.A.). He is a member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing (U.S.A.).
Professor Erik Thorsby, University of Oslo, NorwayThe Polynesian gene pool: An early contribution by Amerindians to Easter Island
Erik Thorsby is professor emeritus at Institute of Immunology, University of Oslo, Norway. He established the HLA field in Norway and was head of Institute of Transplantation Immunology 1970-1998, and head of Institute of Immunology 1998-2006. His major scientific contributions has been the structure and function of the HLA gene complex, its role as the major histocompatibility complex and the effects of HLA complex genes as strong disease predisposing genes in man. Further he has conducted several investigations on the use of HLA genetic markers in anthropological studies. He has received multiple scientific awards, and is a member of The Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Commander of the Royal Norwegian St Olav Order.
Professor Alicia Sanchez-Mazas, University of Geneva, SwitzerlandRole of migration, demography and natural selection in the molecular evolution of the HLA polymorphism in human populations
Alicia Sanchez-Mazas is Professor of Population Genetics and Head of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Genetics and Peopling history at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) where she conducts research projects related to the genetic history of modern humans. She coordinates laboratory and biostatistical analyses with a special focus on the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) in humans (HLA). Her current investigation is mainly devoted to the human peopling history of East Asia and Africa, the relationships between genetic and linguistic variation, and the impact of both demography and natural selection on the evolution of the HLA polymorphism. She also leads HLA-NET, a European network of researchers aiming at improving the number and quality of population data available for donor search in stem cell transplantation and for research studies in immunogenetics, epidemiology and population genetics. She has co-edited two books on the peopling history of East Asia and has published numerous papers.
Professor Adrian Hill, University of Oxford, UKCase-control studies of infectious disease susceptibility
Adrian Hill trained at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford is now Professor of Human Genetics and Director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. He leads research programmes in genetic susceptibility to tropical infectious diseases and in vaccine design and development. As a founder member of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics since 1994 his research group has studied multiple genetic factors associated with or genetically linked to resistance to malaria, tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, and viral infections such as hepatitis B and C and HIV. His group has pioneered genome-wide linkage and association analyses of genetic susceptibility to common human infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis, more recently as part of the Wellcome Trust case control consortium. Data on immunogenetic susceptibility factors have provided new insights into the impact of infections on human genomic diversity. He has published over 350 research papers, is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal College of Physicians, and a NIHR Senior Investigator.
Dr Sebastien Gagneux, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland Evolutionary forces in human tuberculosis
Sébastien Gagneux holds a joint Group Leader appointment at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland and at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, UK. Dr. Gagneux received his PhD from the Swiss Tropical Institute/University of Basel, Switzerland in 2001, and then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Small. Between 2005 and 2007 he worked at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.Dr. Gagneux studies the cause and consequence of genetic diversity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis from a micro- and macroevolutionary perspective. The micro-evolutionary perspective comprises evaluating the effect of bacterial genetics and compensatory evolution on the reproductive fitness and transmission dynamics of drug-resistant M. tuberculosis. The macro-evolutionary arm of his research focuses on the global biogeography and population genomics of M. tuberculosis, and on the effect of mycobacterial variation on host-pathogen interaction.
Dr Kristian Andersen, Harvard University, USAPinpointing signals of natural selection to investigate causal variants in selective sweeps
Kristian Andersen is a researcher at FAS Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and the Broad Institute. Originally from Denmark, he received his PhD from the University of Cambridge and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 2009. Here, he worked on mechanisms of immunological tolerance and the evolution of the adaptive immune system. Since moving to Harvard he has been investigating the complex relationship between host and pathogen. Using a combination of experimental and computational techniques he is investigating how the human immune system impacts the evolution of viral pathogens such as Lassa and Ebola. Given the strong selection pressures caused by these microorganisms, he is also investigating signals of natural selection in the human genome in response to infectious agents.
Professor Eske Willerslev, Centre of GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, DenmarkEarly peopling of the New World
Eske Willerslev (EW) is director for Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics and the National CryoBank and Sequencing Facility, situated at the National History Museum, University of Copenhagen. His research interests include: human evolution, palaeoecology, palaeontology, domestication, DNA degradation and repair, macroevolution, molecular evolution, barcoding, and genomics. EW did his doctored at University of Copenhagen and a Wellcome Trust Fellowship at Oxford University, UK. EW has also been a visitor at MD Anderson Cancer Research Centre in Texas, US. His group established the fields of sedimentary ancient DNA (Science 2003), and ice core genetics (Science 2007), and were the first to sequence the complete mitochondrial DNA genome (Science 2008) and nuclear genome (Nature 2010) of ancient humans.
Professor Mark Achtman, University College Cork, IrelandInsights from genomic comparisons of genetically monomorphic bacterial pathogens
Mark Achtman is a Canadian who performed research at Max-Planck Institutes in Berlin, Germany from 1971-2008. He moved to University College Cork, Ireland in 2007 as a Professor in Microbiology and Principle Investigator of the Science Foundation of Ireland. He is an internationally recognized and highly cited expert on population genetics of pathogenic bacteria. Prior work focussed on epidemic waves of cerebrospinal meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitides. More recently, he has used the differentiation of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori to resolve ancient global patterns of spread of its human host. He has a particular interest in historical evolution of a variety of bacterial pathogens, which has resulted in investigating the correlations between historical accounts of the pandemic spread of plague with microevolution in the causative agent, Yersinia pestis. Currently, considerable efforts are being exerted on understanding the population genetic patterns within the gastrointestinal pathogen, Salmonella enterica.
Professor John Novembre, University of California, Los Angeles, USAHuman population structure and the adaptive response to pathogen-induced selection pressures
Professor Nina Jablonski, The Pennsylvania State University, USAHuman skin pigmentation, migration, and disease susceptibility
Nina G. Jablonski is Professor and Head of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University. A biological anthropologist and paleobiologist, she studies the evolution of adaptations to the environment in Old World primates including humans. Her research extends into problems that do not have immediate answers in the fossil record, but require synthesis of comparative anatomical and physiological information with that on the physical and environmental characteristics of ancient ecosystems. In the last 20 years, her pursuit of “unseen” aspects of human evolution has been focused on the evolution of human skin and skin pigmentation. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences, a member of the Advisory Council for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, and a member of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences of the National Research Council. She received one of the first Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowships in 2005 and the W.W. Howells Book Award of the American Anthropological Association for 2007 for her book, Skin: A Natural History (University of California Press, 2006). In 2009, she was elected to membership of the American Philosophical Society.
Dr Sarah Williams-Blangero, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, USAHost genetics and population structure effects on parasitic diseases
Sarah Williams-Blangero received her Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Case Western Reserve University in 1987. Since that time, she has worked at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (formerly the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research) in research on infectious disease genetics. Her primary interests are in the genetics of susceptibility to helminthic infections and in the genetic determinants of differential disease outcome in Chagas’ disease. Dr. Williams-Blangero directs field studies related to these research projects in Jiri, Nepal and in Posse, Goias, Brazil. She has been the Chair of the Department of Genetics at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute since 1999.
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