Gil Omenn Prizes awarded at the ISEMPH meeting

Gil Omenn, Matthew Barber, Ann Demogines, & Randolph Nesse

The winners of the Gil Omenn Prize for 2013 and 2014 received recognition and their $5000 prize money at the inaugural meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health. Gil Omenn has just announced a major donation to the Society that will sustain the prize for at least three more years.  The prize is awarded for the best article published each year on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health in any journal.

Matthew Barber was awarded the 2014 Prize for his paper  “Escape from bacterial iron piracy through rapid evolution of transferrin” by Matthew Barber and Nels Elde from the University of Utah. The article appeared in Science 346:1362-6, 2014.
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Thanks to the prize committee: Sarah Tishkoff, Joe Alcock, Noah Rosenberg, and Alison Galvani

Ann Demogines was awarded the 2013 Prize for her paper  Dual Host-Virus Arms Races Shape an Essential Housekeeping Protein by Demogines A, Abraham J, Choe H, Farzan M, Sawyer SL (2013). PLoS Biol 11(5):e1001571. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001571
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Thanks to the Prize Committee, Allen Rodrigo (chair), Carl Bergstrom, and Sarah Tishkoff

Also, note that the Society now also sponsors the George C Williams Prize for the best article published in the Oxford Press journal, Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health



March 30 abstract deadline for Zurich EvMed meeting

The abstract deadline for the “Evolutionary Medicine Conference: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Health and Disease” (Juli 30-August 1 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland) is approaching now:

– Abstract Deadline: March 30, 2015
– Early registration Deadline: May 31, 2015

Find all relevant information (abstract submission, registration, accommodation, etc.) on our official conference webpage:

Please get in contact with us if you have questions:

Thanks for sharing the event and the call for abstracts among your colleagues!

We would be happy to welcome you in Zurich soon…

Best wishes

Frank Rühli, Nicole Bender and Kaspar Staub (Conference Organisers)”

Omenn Prize for 2014 awarded for an article on iron piriacy by Barber and Elde

The Gilbert S. Omenn Prize is awarded by the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health for best article published each year on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health.  The prize for 2014 goes to, “Escape from bacterial iron piracy through rapid evolution of transferrin” by Matthew Barber and Nels Elde from the University of Utah. The article appeared in Science 346:1362-6, 2014. First author Matthew Barber, a postdoctoral student, will receive the $5,000 prize and present a talk on March 21 at the 2015 ISEMPH meeting in Tempe Arizona.  The prize is made possible by a generous donation from Gilbert Omenn.

The Prize Committee—Sarah Tishkoff, Joe Alcock, Noah Rosenberg, and Alison Galvani—found the paper impressive in its scope, integrating phylogenetic, bioinformatic, and experimental approaches to show that primate hosts and bacterial pathogens causing diseases such as meningitis, gonorrhea, and influenza, have co-evolved in competition for a key growth-limiting nutrient: iron.  Barber & Elde show that natural selection during primate evolution produced specific functional adaptations in the iron-binding protein transferrin that prevent iron piracy by bacterial transferrin binding protein (TbpA). This result is a vivid illustration of the role that natural selection and “nutritional immunity” play in host-pathogen “arms races”, mediated by recurrent episodes of positive selection between hosts and pathogens.

Three papers were selected for honorable mention. They are listed below in alphabetical order.

Byars, Sean G., Stephen C. Stearns, and Jacobus J. Boomsma. “Opposite risk patterns for autism and schizophrenia are associated with normal variation in birth size: phenotypic support for hypothesized diametric gene-dosage effects.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281.1794 (2014): 20140604.

This article uses extensive health registry data from 1978 – 2009 in Denmark to demonstrate associations between birth weight and risk patterns for autism and schizophrenia.  They argue that their findings add support to the hypothesis that genomic conflict and imprinting may play a role in common diseases whose etiology has been difficult to unravel using standard approaches.

Pennings, Pleuni S., Sergey Kryazhimskiy, and John Wakeley. “Loss and recovery of genetic diversity in adapting populations of HIV.” PLoS genetics10.1 (2014): e1004000.

This article uses a population genetics approach to infer effective population size of HIV infections based on the prevalence of “hard and soft” selective sweeps. This study helps to explain actual patterns of drug resistance evolution in patients and suggests evolutionary principles for strategies to keep drug resistance to a minimum.

Warinner, Christina, et al. “Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity.” Nature genetics 46.4 (2014): 336-344.

This article characterizes the microbiota from dental calculus obtained from ~1000 year old human skeletons, observing pathogens associated with disease in modern populations and also antibiotic resistance genes prior to the use of antibiotics to treat disease.

Please join the Society in congratulating the authors of the winning and runner up articles. Nominations for next year’s prize will be received starting early in 2016.  The Society also sponsors the $5,000 George C. Williams Prize for the best paper published each year in the Society’s flagship journal, Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. All papers published in the journal in 2015 will have author’s fees waived and will be automatically entered into the Prize competition.




Evolutionary genomic medicine

Rodríguez JA, Marigorta UM, Navarro A. Integrating genomics into evolutionary medicine. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 2014;29:97-102

Also see an interesting blog post on Paleophile

Abstract: The application of the principles of evolutionary biology into medicine was suggested long ago and is already providing insight into the ultimate causes of disease. However, a full systematic integration of medical genomics and evolutionary medicine is still missing. Here, we briefly review some cases where the combination of the two fields has proven profitable and highlight two of the main issues hindering the development of evolutionary genomic medicine as a mature field, namely the dissociation between fitness and health and the still considerable difficulties in predicting phenotypes from genotypes. We use publicly available data to illustrate both problems and conclude that new approaches are needed for evolutionary genomic medicine to overcome these obstacles.