Jonathan Pritchard, PhD: The Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic

Columbia University 2017 Precision Medicine Conference

Jonathan Pritchard, Professor in the Departments of Genetics and Biology at Stanford University and an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Jonathan Pritchard was born in Essex, England, and moved to Pennsylvania during high school. He received undergraduate degrees in biology and mathematics at Penn State (1994), and a PhD in biology from Stanford (1998). After postdoctoral work in statistics at the University of Oxford, he became an assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago (2001). He was subsequently appointed to full professor (2006), and to an investigator position at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2008). In 2013, he joined the faculty of Stanford University, where he is now a professor in the Departments of Biology and Genetics. Dr. Pritchard’s work uses computational and statistical approaches to study human genetic variation and evolution. He has done wide-ranging research on human pop-ulation structure and history and human adaptation, as well as on understanding the mechanisms that link genetic variation to variation in gene regulation and complex traits. One of his key early contributions was the Structure algorithm for using genetic data to infer population structure and personal ancestry. Structure and related methods are now used for wide-ranging applications, including personal ancestry inference, forensics, and conservation biology. Similar statistical techniques have also become widely used for document classification in computer science. More recently, the Pritchard lab has focused on two parallel problems: understanding the links between genetic and phenotypic variation, and understanding the action of natural selection in shaping genetic variation during human evolution. He has worked to identify the molecular mechanisms that link genetic variation to changes in gene regulation, and how these ultimately drive variation in complex traits and diseases. In parallel, he developed techniques for measuring classical selective sweeps as well as recent shifts in allele frequencies. His recent work emphasizes the extreme polygenicity of a wide variety of human traits and the central role of polygenic adaptation in human evolution.