UNT Evolutionary Historian and Biomedical Scientist Bring Together Transdisciplinary Group to Diversify Reference Human Genome and Advance Health Equity

Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 08:19

What: Virtual Conference on Diversifying Genomics will explore inclusion in the Reference Human Genome of diverse populations ancestral DNA as an informative tool for improving precision medicine and precision nutrition. The Nov. 20-21 meeting will inaugurate a three-year "Transdisciplinary Ancestral Genomics Research Insights (TAGRI)" Conference Series.

Inspired by the Ancestral Genomic Variant Theoretical Model and Equation derived by University of North Texas Professor of Evolutionary History, Constance Hilliard, transdisciplinary experts at this Virtual Conference on Diversifying Genomicswill explore innovative new ways of bringing diversity to the Reference Human Genome in order to reduce population-biased health disparities.

Hilliard explains, “My early research sought answers to African-Americans whose ancestral history exhibited strong bones and low rates of osteoporosis; yet in the U.S. this population’s medical reports were labeled calcium-deficient by U.S. federal nutritional standards. My studies of this paradox led me to multiple discoveries, including recognition that nutritional and medical guidelines (unintentionally) favored Americans of European ancestry. I further observed that if guidelines were based on the Reference Human Genome, vital clues have been and are being missed that might help identify different disease-triggers for certain cancers, cardiovascular issues and metabolic disorders in populations whose genomic information is not represented.

Hilliard adds, “In short, America’s one-size-fits-all medical paradigm is not colorblind. It is European and thus unreflective of our vibrant multi-ethnic, multi-genomic society.”

The inaugural conference will also introduce research-in-action Think Tanks, led by Denise Perry Simmons, accomplished biomedical researcher in UNT’s Mechanical Engineering Department.  Think Tanks bring together expert scientists, medical researchers, community advocates and academicians charged with the tasks to (1) examine America’s one-size-fits-all medical paradigm in light of ethnic health disparities and (2) propose new approaches to translational research. Both tasks set to improve health outcomes. Topics and concepts will be investigated to: 

  • Build quality biospecimen and data banks using gold standard operating procedures for collection, storage, retrieval and cybersecurity
  • Explore innovative theories, such as Hilliard’s Ancestral Variant Theoretical Model and Equation, to address Precision Medicine and Precision Nutrition
  • Evaluate Reference Human Genome’s diversity and health equity goals.
  • Investigate Biosensors, Nano-agents, High-throughput Screening Models to identify and study new target sequences, susceptibility genes, disease markers
  • Redefine political/medical/societal terminology: race vs ancestry, diversifying vs stratifying, "minority", pharmacogenomics vs racialized medicine, pharmaco-economics and Health Equity 
  • Conduct “Training and Education - The Pipeline Workshop” led by National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health Directors

When: Central Standard Time 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Nov 20 (Friday), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov 21 (Saturday)

Where: Online – live and interactive

Registration: Free, but limited seating. Click here to register.

Featured speakers include Keynote Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., Former President American Society for Nutrition, Member Food and Nutrition Board and current Vice Chancellor Texas A&M AgriLife, Director of the Texas A&M Agri-Life Institute for Precision Nutrition, Scientist Kim Pruitt, Ph.D. NIH Chief Information Engineering, Head Reference Sequence Database National Center for Biotechnology Information, Duke Pathologist Shannon McCall, M.D. Director NCI Cooperative Human Tissue Network, JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., Former Secretary Executive Office Health & Human Services, MA, Immunogeneticist Georgia Dunston, Ph.D., Founding Director National Human Genome Center - Howard, Geneticist Rick Kittles, Ph.D. Founding Director Division of Health Equities City of Hope National Medical Center, Columbia Biochemist/Molecular Biophysicist Alexander Sobolevsky, Ph.D. Full list here.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Media Contacts:

Trista Moxley