2015 Omenn Prize now accepting nominations

The Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health Foundation invites nominations for the Omenn Prize of $5000 for the best article published in 2015 in any scientific journal on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health. It will be awarded on June 25th at the 2016 ISEMPH Meeting in Durham, NC.

The prize, provided by the generosity of Gilbert S Omenn, will be awarded to the first author of the winning article. Authors are encouraged to nominate their own articles, but nominations of articles by others are also welcome.

Any relevant peer-reviewed article with a publication date of 2015 for the final version of the article is eligible, but the prize is intended for work that uses evolutionary principles to advance understanding of a disease or disease process. The prize committee will give priority to articles with implications for human health, but many basic science or theoretical articles have such implications.

The Prize Committee for this year is chaired by Andrew Read, and its members are David Haig and Grazyna Jasienska. Papers by committee members, their students and lab group members are not eligible, and articles by their co-authors or close associates are subject to special conditions. The winner will be invited to present a talk at the June 22-25 meeting of the International Society for Evolution and Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

Applications due March 31, 2016 at 5pm US Eastern Standard Time

To submit an application visit: http://evolutionarymedicine.org/funding-and-awards/gil-omenn-prize/

Report on the 2015 ISEMPH meeting published in Evolutionary Anthropology

Connecting Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health by Nunn, C.L., I. Wallace, C.M. Beall
Evolutionary Anthropology 24: 127-129, 2015.  DOI 10.1002/evan.21451 [link]

This report on the inaugural meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health hosted by the ASU Center for Evolutionary Medicine, highlights relevant talks and themes including “evolutionary mismatch”, comparative medicine, infectious disease, and the microbiome. The conference  drew over 300 scientists and scholars from around the world.  Harvey Fineberg, President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was the keynote speaker. Rap artist Baba Brinkman’s debut of “The Rap Guide to ^Evolutionary Medicine” was a conference highlight. It is a great teaching resource and well as great entertainment, available free online.  The meeting invigorated the field and paving the way for interdisciplinary collaboration, and a second meeting, scheduled for June 22-25, 2016 in Durham, NC. Details will be sent to ISEMPH members this week.

Article text: Many evolutionary anthropologists are actively involved in the emerging field of evolutionary medicine, which is a global, interdisciplinary effort to use evolutionary perspectives to understand and improve human health. (more…)

Linking Evolution, Ecology, and Health: TriCEM

An article by C.L. Nunn, S.C. Alberts, C.R. McClain, S.R. Meshnick, T.J. Vision, B.M. Wiegmann, & A.G. Rodrigo in BioScience 65(8): 748-749, 2015.  doi:10.1093/biosci/biv086 [link]

This article highlights the importance of initiatives such as the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM) and  The International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health (ISEMPH), and the National Science Foundation– supported National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in stimulating research and providing education and outreach in the field of evolutionary medicine.

Ecological and evolutionary perspectives are essential for understanding human health. Consider, for example, the Ebola virus, which is thought to erupt from bat populations through contact among humans, bats, and other wildlife. In the ongoing outbreak in West Africa, the index case was a 2-year-old boy who may have played in and around a tree that was home to a colony of bats (Saéz et al. 2015). Thus, interactions between humans and wildlife in a highly disturbed ecological habitat probably served as the spark that ignited this epidemic that has killed more than 20,000 people (Baize et al. 2014). Every transmission of the Ebola virus to a new host represents an opportunity for natural selection and therefore for evolution of the virus. Some strains have longer chains of transmission, with more mutations, enabling viruses to discover more fit phenotypes. Phylogenetic analyses revealed the great extent of evolutionary change that occurred early in this latest epidemic, with 73 nonsynonymous substitutions among 78 infected individuals (link to full article)

Evolutionary Determinants of Cancer

Mel Greaves, The Institute of Cancer Research

July 20, 2015, doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-0439 Full Text PDF


Our understanding of cancer is being transformed by exploring clonal diversity, drug resistance, and causation within an evolutionary framework. The therapeutic resilience of advanced cancer is a consequence of its character as a complex, dynamic, and adaptive ecosystem engendering robustness, underpinned by genetic diversity and epigenetic plasticity. The risk of mutation-driven escape by self-renewing cells is intrinsic to multicellularity but is countered by multiple restraints, facilitating increasing complexity and longevity of species. But our own species has disrupted this historical narrative by rapidly escalating intrinsic risk. Evolutionary principles illuminate these challenges and provide new avenues to explore for more effective control.

Significance: Lifetime risk of cancer now approximates to 50% in Western societies. And, despite many advances, the outcome for patients with disseminated disease remains poor, with drug resistance the norm. An evolutionary perspective may provide a clearer understanding of how cancer clones develop robustness and why, for us as a species, risk is now off the scale. And, perhaps, of what we might best do to achieve more effective control. Cancer Discov; 5(8); 1–15. ©2015 AACR.

Toward an evolutionary model of cancer: Considering the mechanisms that govern the fate of somatic mutations

Andrii I. Rozhok and James DeGregori

PNAS July 21, 2015 vol. 112 no. 298914-8921


Our understanding of cancer has greatly advanced since Nordling [Nordling CO (1953) Br J Cancer7(1):68–72] and Armitage and Doll [Armitage P, Doll R (1954) Br J Cancer 8(1):1–12] put forth the multistage model of carcinogenesis. (more…)