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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Rapid and Ongoing Darwinian Selection of the Human Genome

8th May 2007, 20:00 to 21:00, Senate Suite, Durham Castle

This is an IAS public lecture that is free and open to all.

Evolution is often seen as something that happened in the distant past and the key evidence for evolution may be considered to be fossils dug up in distant climes. In fact, however, analysis of the genomes of primates and other animals has the potential to provide a far more complete picture of species evolution. These analyses have already revealed that rapid evolution of the human genome has occurred within the last few thousand years, driven by encounters with novel pathogens and by migration to novel environments. I will discuss the concepts and evidence underlying the above statements and provide evidence that the susceptability, or resistance, of humans and apes to some viruses is controlled by minor differences in their genomes that have arisen relatively recently.

Professor Cullen is an internationally known expert in the field of pathogenic human viruses. After a brief period working in the pharmaceutical industry, Professor Cullen was offered the prestigious position of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. He has been a faculty member at Duke since 1987, where he currently holds the James B. Duke Chair in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and directs the Duke University Center for Virology.

Professor Cullen's research has had a major impact on our current understanding of the molecular biology of several important human pathogens, including HIV-1, the etiologic agent of AIDS, and several human herpesviruses. He has published over 230 articles in prominent scientific journals and has also penned several book chapters. The scientific impact of this body of work can be gauged from the fact that Professor Cullen has been named one of the most highly cited researchers in biomedical research by the Institute for Scientific Information and one of the 10 most highly cited researchers in AIDS by the journal "Science." He has been awarded the Eli Lilly Molecular Biology Contact Award, an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Award, and recently was also awarded a Visiting Professorship by Imperial College, London. Professor Cullen continues to direct a highly active research laboratory at Duke University Medical Center where his work is currently focused on understanding the ongoing evolutionary race between viral pathogens and host anti-viral defense systems.

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