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Global Health Seminar – Evolution of hereditary disease risks and the portability of genetic predictions to African populations
UGA College of Public Health
Global Health Institute
Spring Seminar Series
Evolution of hereditary disease risks and the portability of genetic predictions to African populations
Guest Speaker: Joe LaChance, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, College of Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
Please join us for this hybrid seminar on Thursday, January 25 at 4:00 p.m. in Room 120A of Wright Hall on the Health Sciences Campus or via Zoom. Everyone is welcome to attend! Contact Juliet Sekandi for additional information.
Abstract: In this talk, Dr. Joseph Lachance will summarize work being done in his lab at Georgia Tech. This research involves inferring how genetic disease risks have evolved over recent human history and globalizing genetic predictions of health and disease. One emerging paradigm from this work is that complex diseases appear to be governed more by neutral evolution than by natural selection. This research has also explored why genetic predictions of disease risk generalize poorly across populations, with one key cause being ascertainment bias (most of what is known about disease genetics comes from studies of European populations). Working with colleagues in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Lachance has spearheaded efforts to identify why men of African descent are more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer. By conducting the first pan-African genome wide association study of prostate cancer, we have identified novel disease associations and discovered substantial heterogeneity in the genetic risks of this disease across continental and regional scales. Collectively, these findings underscore the limited transferability of genetic predictions across different ancestries and emphasize the importance of conducting studies encompassing a wide range of populations.
Speaker Bio: Dr. Lachance is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he has been a faculty member since January 2015. Dr. Lachance is also the Director of a Department of Education GAANN training grant in Biology. His research interests include Population Genetics, Evolution, Human Genomics, and Health Disparities. As a tenured faculty member at Georgia Tech, he has supervised three postdocs, six PhD students, twenty-one MS students, and twenty-three undergraduates. Honors received at Georgia Tech include a Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award and a Doc Blanchard Professorship. He is active in multiple scientific societies and has been elected to the executive committee of the American Association of Anthropological Genetics. Dr. Lachance’s work has appeared in journals that include Cell, Nature, Nature Genetics, and the American Journal of Human Genetics. His NIH-funded research focuses on how hereditary disease risks have evolved over time, and he is building predictive models of health and disease. This research program bridges the gap between evolutionary genomics and genetic epidemiology.