Club EvMed this week

Pathogen selection for HLA gene diversity and its consequences for autoimmunity and cancer immunotherapy. Sign up here for the meeting link.

Tuesday, October 27th at 1pm EDT

headshot of Tobias Lenz

Join us for a conversation with Tobias L. Lenz of the Research Group for Evolutionary Immunogenomics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Ploen, Germany. Pathogen-mediated selection is a major driver of human evolution in general and of immune gene diversity specifically. A key component of the adaptive immune system are the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, coding for molecules that present antigenic peptides to immune effector cells. The exceptional polymorphism at the HLA gene is assumed to reflect the need for diverse antigen presentation. However, an optimal immune response requires a delicate balance of maximizing recognition of pathogens while minimizing damage to self tissue by the immune machinery. As HLA molecules present both non-self and self antigens, depending on which antigens are presented by an individual’s HLA variants, this can trigger either pathogen resistance or autoimmunity. HLA-presentation of a broader antigen repertoire should thus be beneficial for pathogen recognition, but might also increase the risk for autoimmunity, leading to antagonistic selective pressures that shape the optimal antigen repertoire and thus HLA diversity in an individual.

Here Dr. Lenz will discuss this evolutionary trade-off for individual HLA diversity and present some examples from his work on the role of pathogens in the evolution of HLA diversity, but also on its consequences for autoimmunity and its role in immune checkpoint blockade therapy against cancer, a striking example for the success of evolutionary medicine. Attendees are encouraged to read Pierini and Lenz 2018, “Divergent allele advantage at human MHC genes: signatures of past and ongoing selection” and Chowell et al. 2019, “Evolutionary divergence of HLA class I genotype impacts efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.” Sign up here for the meeting link.

ClubEvMed: James DeGregori on Cancer

ClubEvMed: James DeGregori on Cancer

How recent characterizations of somatic mutations in humans inform an evolutionary understanding of aging and cancer

Monday, October 19th at 1pm EDT. Sign up here for the meeting link.

James DeGregori and his dog

Join us for a conversation with James DeGregori, Courtenay C. And Lucy Patten Davis Endowed Chair in Lung Cancer Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. In the last five years, multiple studies have demonstrated that apparently healthy tissues in humans are patchworks of clones bearing somatic mutations, and the sizes and frequencies of these clones increases dramatically in old age. Often, there is clear evidence for positive selection for variants, which are frequently in genes frequently mutated in cancers, and yet the vast (VAST!) majority of these mutation-bearing clones will never develop into a cancer. We will discuss the implications of these findings for different evolutionary theories of aging and cancer. Attendees are encouraged to read Martincorena et al. 2018, “Somatic mutant clones colonize the human esophagus with age” and Kakiuchi et al. 2020, “Frequent mutations that converge on the NFKBIZ pathway in ulcerative colitis.” Sign up here for the meeting link.

Evolution and Medicine Program in Lyon, France

Evolution and Medicine Program in Lyon, France

Introducing evolutionary thinking in the health professions

This diploma is aimed at all professionals in human and animal health and life sciences, as well as students (validated 4th year) and, by extension, all enthusiasts of evolutionary sciences. Full information is here. See the detailed program here.

The discovery of the importance of microbiota, antibiotic resistance, new obstetric practices, the increase in the prevalence of psychiatric illnesses, the obesity epidemic, emerging viral diseases, new demographic and environmental pressures, and many others current topics, make it necessary to introduce evolutionary thinking in clinical practice.

Based on the observation that evolutionary sciences are not yet taught in the faculty of medicine, the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL1) and the laboratory of excellence (Labex) ECOFECT have decided to jointly ensure the high patronage of this diploma which is the first of its kind in Europe.

A word from the ECOFECT labex

“Evolutionary biology and medicine”: a unique DU in Europe  at the initiative of Ecofect
Discussions within the Ecofect LabEx and the bringing together of researchers from different disciplines naturally led to a reflection on the place of biology developments in medical training. This reflection led to the proposal for a University Diploma entitled “Biology of evolution and medicine” within the Faculty of Medicine of Lyon. This proposal was very well received by the evaluation commission of the faculty of medicine which underlined its innovative character .

This is the first time that a course in evolutionary biology has been integrated into the medical studies curriculum. It illustrates the pioneering work of LabEx Ecofect. The objective is to place the various medical disciplines in the larger framework of ecology and evolution. Integrating evolutionary reasoning into the initial and continuing training of physicians, researchers, practitioners and clinicians in human or animal health should lead to the opening up of new avenues of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

About thirty high-level French – speaking speakers participate in this teaching: researchers and practitioners, doctors, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, epistemologists, methodologists. This DU is under the responsibility of Gérard Lina (PU-PH at UCBL1 and CIRI), Luc Perino (Doctor, essayist) and Dominique Pontier (PU – UCBL1, CNRS – UMR 5558, co-director Ecofect), all three members of Ecofect .

Evolutionary Psychiatry Conference Oct 22-27

Evolutionary Psychiatry Conference Oct 22-27

October 22-27, 2019
Erice, Sicily, ITALY

This will be an important meeting for all interested in evolutionary psychiatry. The setting, in an old monastery on a mountaintop in Sicily, is stunning. It is open to all. Registration and abstract submission are open now.


Martin Brüne (Ruhr Universität – Bochum, Germany)
Alfonso Troisi (Università di Roma – Tor Vergata, Italy)
Paola Palanza and Stefano Parmigiani (Università di Parma, Italy)

The overall purpose of the Workshop is to discuss the implications of ethology and evolutionary psychology for psychological and psychiatric research and practice. It will focus on a diverse array of topics, including the analysis of nonverbal behaviour, behavioural ecology, particularly in the form of life history theory, and evolutionary genetics of psychiatric disorders. The format will involve talks by international authorities who have been engaged in such research. The workshop will be highly interdisciplinary including aspects involving behavioural and social neuroscience as well as psychopharmacology and psychotherapy

Keynote: Randolph Nesse – Arizona State University, Tempe (AZ), USA . Good reasons for bad feelings: insights from the frontier of evolutionary psychiatry


Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg

Nurturing Nature: Interaction effects in neurobehavioral development

Caroline Blanchard

Of mice and men: Evolutionary, functional and translational approaches to behavioral neuroscience

Martin Brüne

One fits it all? Why psychiatry needs to entertain the whole spectrum of evolutionary theory

Marina Butovskaya

Reproductive success in traditional East-African societies: individual behavior, genes and sociocultural environment

Carlos Crivelli

The Behavioral Ecology View of Facial Displays

Marco Del Giudice

Form follows function: an evolutionary model of the structure of psychopathology

Bruce Ellis

Developmental adaptation to stress: An evolutionary perspective

Holly Ewald

Infection, immune responses, and depression

Paul Ewald

Genes, germs and schizophrenia

Pier Francesco Ferrari

Early Experiences, Brain plasticity and social-cognitive development in primates

Marinus van IJzendoorn

Consequences of deprivation and enrichment in chimpanzees, mice and rats: Lessons to be learnt for child development

Andrea Migliano

Foraging origins of human cumulative culture

Randolph Nesse

Good Reasons for bad feelings: insights from the frontier of evolutionary biology

Paola Palanza

Why Ethology matters for human psychology and psychiatry: from mice to men – and women

Stefano Parmigiani

Why Ethology matters for human psychology and psychiatry: from mice to men – and women

Davide Ponzi

Sex, Sex & Sex: Thoughts, behaviors and hormones. Which influences which?

Alfonso Troisi

An evolutionary critique of the harmful dysfunction analysis (HDA) of mental disorder

Daniel Wilson

Adapting Health Sciences Education to Evolution

Discounted Registration ends soon!

Discounted Registration ends soon!

The International Society of Evolution, Medicine and Public Health will hold it 5th annual meeting August 13-16 in  Zurich, Switzerland.

All 134 presentations are now posted with abstracts.

Register now to get the discounted rate.

ISEMPH 2019 is profoundly interdisciplinary and emphasizes the multiple interfaces between evolutionary biology and human health in the complementary fields of medicine, evolutionary biology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, behavioral ecology and epidemiology. This meeting will particularly welcome students and clinicians at all stages of professional development. Full information and registration links are here.

The meeting his hosted by the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich and a committee chaired by Frank Rühli and Nicole Bender.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers include

Prof. Bernard J. Crespi, Simon Fraser University, Canada: How evolutionary biology can frame a unified theory for understanding human mental illness.

Prof. Dario Valenzano, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Germany: African killifishes shed light on the genomic basis of life history trait evolution in vertebrates.

Prof. Kayla King, University of Oxford, UK: Protectors vs. killers: microbes within the host as drivers of pathogen evolution.

Prof. Verena Schünemann, University of Zurich, Switzerland: Ancient DNA and pathogens: uncovering the past of human diseases