2017 Speakers

Gonçalo Abecasis

Felix E. Moore, Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan School of Public Health, is a leader in genetic analysis of complex human traits. His team has developed statistical methods, computational algorithms and software that facilitate quick, accurate analysis of genetic studies of human disease. His studies enable a better understanding of human genetic variation and its role in disease biology. Abecasis has made important contributions to understanding conditions as diverse as heart disease, diabetes, psoriasis, macular degeneration. Ongoing projects include the sequencing and analysis of >50,000 deep human genomes – an unprecedented amount of data. Abecasis leads the University’s Biostatistics department, which is training a new generation of scientists and making contributions to the statistical and computational machinery for the analysis of diverse types of biomedical data – including not only genomic data but also electronic health records, registry data and health surveys, a variety of imaging data types, and environmental exposures, among others.

Ido Imit


Ido Imit, PhD is a Professor at the Immunology Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. His lab develops novel single cell genomic and epigenomic methods to characterize the immune system and develop new targets for immunotherapy. Among others, he is a recipient of the 2015 EMBO Gold Medal award for his work to reveal the function of the immune system.

Leif Andersson


Leif Andersson, PhD is professor at Uppsala University, guest professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and visiting professor at Texas A&M University. He has been working on comparative genomics using domestic animals as study objects the last 30 years. The work has focused on domestic animals as models for phenotypic evolution and resulted in a steady stream of interesting findings on genotype-phenotype relationships. In recent years the research program has been expanded to include natural populations such as the Darwin’s finches, ruff and Atlantic herring because of the exciting opportunities opened up by the development of new sequencing technologies.

Doris Bachtrog


Doris Bachtrog, PhD, MSc is an Associate Professor at the Department of Integrative Biology,  The University of California, Berkeley. Her research centers on a broad range of topics in functional evolutionary genomics. Ongoing research includes: (1) Investigating the causes of Y chromosome degeneration. (2) Studying the evolution of gene expression and dosage compensation in Drosophila. (3) The formation of heterochromatin on evolving Y chromosomes. (4) Comparative genomics in Diptera species. (5) The evolution of chromatin structure in Drosophila. (6) Investigating modes of speciation in several Drosophila species. (7) The evolution of sex-biased genes on newly formed sex chromosomes. (8) Transitions between sex determination systems. Most of her research uses Drosophila as a model, combing whole-genome experimental and computational analyses.

Daniel De Carvalho


Daniel De Carvalho, PhD  holds the Helen M Cooke Professorship in Cancer Epigenetics, is a Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Assistant Professor at the Dept. of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto. Dr. De Carvalho earned his PhD in Immunology from University of São Paulo in 2009 and did his postdoctoral training in Cancer epigenetics at University of Southern California (USC) at Dr. Peter Jones group from 2010 until 2012.  His research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms driving epigenetic reprogramming in cancer and on translational aspects of cancer epigenetic therapy. De Carvalho is interested in the potential to use epigenetic therapy to improve immunotherapy in cancer and in using DNA methylation profiling of cell free DNA as a biomarker for cancer early detection and for response to therapy.  Nature Medicine highlighted Dr. De Carvalho work as one of the top 10 notable advances in 2015 and by Canadian Cancer Society as one of the Top 10 Research Impact Stories of 2015. Cell, Nature Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Wall Street Journal wrote editorials about his work, highlighting the potential to improve immunotherapy using epigenetic therapy.

Stirling Churchman


Stirling Churchman, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Using high-resolution quantitative approaches, her laboratory investigates how gene expression is regulated from both the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. Dr. Churchman majored in physics at Cornell University and obtained her doctorate in physics from Stanford University in 2008. She was a postdoctoral fellow with Jonathan Weissman at University of California, San Francisco. There she developed an approach, native elongation transcript sequencing, NET-seq, that directly visualizes global transcriptional activity through mapping RNA polymerase density genome-wide with single-nucleotide resolution. Dr. Churchman joined the Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School as an Assistant Professor in 2011. She is also an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Churchman received the Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2011), a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (2011-2016) and was named a New Scholar in Aging by the Ellison Medical Foundation (2013-2017).

William Greenleaf


William Greenleaf, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University. He received his AB in Physics from Harvard, his PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford, and carried out postdoctoral research in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard. His lab is interested in leveraging new sequencing methods and technologies to understand the physical genome. He is investigating both how the genome is packaged, protected, sequestered, and made accessible within the cell nucleus, as well as how changes in DNA sequence relates changes in structure and function of encoded biological macromolecules.

Nada Jabado


Nada Jabado, MD, PhD is Professor of the Department of Pediatrics Education/Training at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center,.  She established her Research Program as a PI in 2003 to study brain tumors, the leading cause of cancer related mortality and morbidity in the pediatric years. She is a clinician-scientist who leads a lab comprised of 6 postdoctoral and clinical fellows, 6 graduate students and 5 research assistants/associates. Her main focus is pediatric and young adult astrocytomas, a deadly group of brain tumors. Her group uncovered that pediatric high-grade astrocytomas (HGA) are molecularly and genetically distinct from adult tumors.They also identified a new molecular mechanism driving pediatric HGA, namely recurrent somatic driver mutations in the tail of histone 3 variants (H3.3 and H3.1). These mutations lead to amino acid substitutions at key residues and are tightly correlated with a distinct global DNA methylation pattern, neuroanatomical locations and age specificities. They aim to identify events affected downstream of each mutation, and validate targets in new models to better advise the use of experimental or pipeline drug(s) or drug combinations that could be rapidly translated into clinical trials. Ultimately, based on their findings, patients could be stratified based on their genetic/molecular signature, and assigned to a beneficial therapeutic strategy, bringing needed effective interventions in this devastating cancer. Additionally, they established a TCGA-like initiative by creating the International CHildhood Astrocytoma INtegrated Genomic and Epigenomic (ICHANGE) Consortium. They say, this is a unique set of resources, which enables the scientific world to investigate astrocytomas in children. It includes databases and access to technology as well as international collaborations from 15 participating countries, including ~1500 annotated glioma tissue samples representative of all grades and ages.

Eimear Kenny


Eimer Kenny, PhD is currently Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genome Science, and a member of the Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine, the Institute of Genomics and Multiscale Biology and the Center for Statistical Genetics, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The goal of her research is to realize the full potential of genomics to infer human history and evolution and to inform better models for clinical medicine. Her recent work (with co-authors) describing a novel variant that causes blond hair in the Solomon Islands, Melanesia, (and published in Science journal) was featured in the New York Times and the Smithsonian NHGRI Human Genome exhibit.

Andrew L. Kung


Andrew L. Kung, MD, PhD is a physician-scientist and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), where he oversees the clinical, research and educational missions of the Department.  His clinical expertise is in cancer genomics, precision medicine and stem cell transplantation.  His research laboratory is focused on identifying the causes of pediatric cancers and developing new treatments to benefit children and adolescents with cancer. Dr. Kung received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Stanford University School of Medicine and completed post-graduate medical training as a pediatric oncologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  He served as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School for 18 years and was recruited to New York City as the Director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Columbia in July 2012.  In July 2016, he was recruited to MSKCC to lead one of the largest pediatric oncology programs in the world. Working with his colleagues, Dr. Kung takes a translational approach to cancer research, integrating diverse disciplines with the ultimate goal of clinical translation. The research in his lab focuses on identifying new targets for anticancer drugs, the genetics of cancer, and the development of innovative therapies that target the molecular abnormalities fueling cancer growth.  Studies from his lab have led to new clinical trials for leukemia, brain tumors and sarcomas.

Daniel Macarthur


Daniel MacArthur, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and the Co-Director of Medical and population Genetics and the  Center for Mendelian Genomics at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. His research focuses on the use of genomic approaches to uncover the functional impact of human genetic variation, and especially its role in causing severe Mendelian diseases. He currently coordinates the Exome Aggregation Consortium (ExAC), which has aggregated and jointly processed exome sequence data from over 60,000 individuals, made publicly available through the widely-used ExAC browser ( His group also applies a variety of genomic technologies, including exome, whole-genome, and transcriptome sequencing, to improve the diagnosis of patients with rare disease. To date his lab has sequenced over 2000 samples and provided genetic diagnoses for over 500 families suffering from these diseases. He now co-directs the newly created Center for Mendelian Genomics at the Broad Institute, established with a grant from NHGRI, which will apply genomic technologies to the diagnosis of over 7,000 rare disease families over the next four years.

MacArthur received his BMedSc and PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia, and completed postdoctoral training at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK before beginning his current position in 2012.

John Marioni


John Marioni, PhD has been a senior group leader at the CRUK Cambridge Institute since September 2015. Since September 2010 he has also been a group leader at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute and since August 2014 an associate faculty member of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Before establishing his research group at the EMBL-EBI, John was a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago and a PhD student in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. His group work on understanding the regulation of gene expression, especially at the single-cell level where he has pioneered analytical approaches.

Oliver Pybus


Oliver Pybus, DPhil, BSc, MSc is Professor of Evolution & Infectious Disease at the University of Oxford, UK, and a Professorial Fellow of New College, Oxford. He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Virus Evolution and received the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London and the Daiwa Adrian Prize. He investigates the evolution and epidemiology of infectious diseases, particularly pathogenic RNA viruses. His research includes (i) the molecular epidemiology and epidemic history of HIV and hepatitis C, particularly in Asia and Africa, (ii) the global evolution of influenza viruses, (iii) virus and immune dynamics during chronic viral infection, (iv) the evolution of flaviviruses, and (v) the development of new techniques for tracking and predicting virus transmission.

Jared Simpson


Jared Simpson, PhD with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, develops algorithms and software for the analysis of high-throughput sequencing data. He works primarily on de novo genome assembly, the detection of somatic mutations in cancer and, most recently, the development of algorithms for nanopore-based sequencers. Dr. Simpson and his research group have developed the ABYSS, SGA and nanopolish software packages.

Emma Teeling


Emma Teeling, PhD, MSc, BSc established the Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics in 2005 and is the Founding Director of the Centre for Irish Bat Research at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. She has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant (2012) and a Science Foundation Ireland, President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (2006). Prof. Teeling’s integrative research in the fields of zoology, phylogenetics and genomics uncovers the genetic signatures of survival that enables species to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Her main study group are the bats. The two main goals of her research are: (1) study unique model species to enable a better understanding of the structure and function of the human genome to inform medicine and molecular biology; (2) understand and therefore conserve, natural populations and environments to promote ecosystem well-being and functioning. Her record of leadership and research excellence is demonstrated by her publication record of >78 internationally peer-reviewed papers, 5 book chapters, 4 invited subject reviews. A number of these publications have over-turned conventional paradigms in mammalian biology and therefore have been published in high profile journals such as Nature (n=1), Science (n=4), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (n=3), and Nature Communications (n=1). Her high standing in the international community is highlighted by a total citation record of 5392; prestigious international keynote lectures; invited high profile collaborations such as Genome 10K; leadership of Bat1K; and, high profile invited public presentations (e.g. TEDx talk; ~ 445,000 views; BBC’s Science Club with Dara O’Brian).