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Personal profile

Biography

Jim Wilson is affiliated both to the Usher Institute and the MRC Human Genetics Unit. Of Fair Isle heritage, he grew up in Orkney where he attended the Kirkwall Grammar School, before reading genetics at the University of Edinburgh. After a year working with Svante Pääbo in Bavaria, Jim went up to New College in Oxford where he completed a DPhil in human population genetics with David Goldstein. Jim moved back to Edinburgh in 2003 after a stint at University College London, to take up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. He has published over 280 peer-reviewed journal articles, 52 of which were in the top genetics journal Nature Genetics, 15 in Nature and 2 in Science. His ISI Web of Science h-index is 92, his m-value is 4.2, and he was a Thomson-Reuters highly cited researcher (highlycited.com) for 2014-2018. Over the last decade Jim led three large genetic epidemiology studies in Orkney and Shetland, the Viking Genes cohorts. These platform resources for health research benefit from rich phenotyping, deep genotyping, a tissue biobank and prospective follow up through record linkage and have contributed to the discovery of over 1000 novel associations. More recently he has initiated a number of international consortia to explore interests in the genetic architecture of complex traits. Jim is engaged in science communication principally through radio and TV series explaining genetics to the public (e.g. Blood of the Vikings, On the Ocean, Is it better to be mixed race?, Gatwick Baby, British More or Less, Twincredibles, Meet the Izzards, the IFTA-winning Blood of the Irish and Blood of the Travellers, a book and radio series, The Scots, A Genetic Journey) and was involved in the genetic ancestry testing business for over decade.

My research in a nutshell

Research in my group spans the interface of population and disease genetics, with a focus on the genetic architecture of complex traits and the identification of genetic variants influencing quantitative risk factors for common diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. I am particularly interested in high kinship isolate populations which have increased utility for rare variant discovery, particularly in the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. We are also engaged in analysis of rare deleterious variants in these populations, particularly those which have increased in frequency due to the action of genetic drift.

Another major research interest is in homozygosity and the potential role of recessive genetic variants in determining disease risk – I steer an international consortium of >100 cohort studies and >1.4 million research participants (ROHgen) which seeks to understand the effect of inbreeding depression on complex traits. After developing the methods to measure homozygosity and describing the global distribution, we demonstrated an effect of genome-wide homozygosity on height and cognition, implying they have been subject to directional selection during human evolution. We are now focussing on understanding the mechanism and delineating further the scope of inbreeding depression in humans, as well as attempting to map the effects we see to particular regions of the genome.

Other research themes in my group at present include the genetics of longevity, food preferences, the role of the Y chromosome in complex traits as well as a large focus on proteomics and other omics. A final strand of activity is in population genetics, particularly focussed on the genetic history of the British Isles, where I was the first to discover genetic evidence for Norse Viking ancestry.

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  • The genetic landscape of Scotland and the Isles

    Gilbert, E., O'Reilly, S., Merrigan, M., McGettingan, D., Vitart, V., Joshi, P. K., Clark, D. W., Campbell, H., Hayward, C., Ring, S. M., Golding, J., Goodfellow, S., Navarro, P., Kerr, S. M., Amador, C., Campbell, A., Haley, C. S., Porteous, D. J., Cavalleri, G. L. & Wilson, J. F., 17 Sep 2019, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116, 34, p. 19064-19070 7 p.

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  • Associations of autozygosity with a broad range of human phenotypes

    Clark, D. W., Okada, Y., Moore, K. H. S., Mason, D., Pirastu, N., Gandin, I., Mattsson, H., Barnes, C. L. K., Lin, K., Zhao, J. H., Deelen, P., Rohde, R., Schurmann, C., Guo, X., Giulianini, F., Zhang, W., Medina-gomez, C., Karlsson, R., Bao, Y., Bartz, T. M. & 416 others, Baumbach, C., Biino, G., Bixley, M. J., Brumat, M., Chai, J., Corre, T., Cousminer, D. L., Dekker, A. M., Eccles, D. A., Van Eijk, K. R., Fuchsberger, C., Gao, H., Germain, M., Gordon, S. D., De Haan, H. G., Harris, S. E., Hofer, E., Huerta-chagoya, A., Igartua, C., Jansen, I. E., Jia, Y., Kacprowski, T., Karlsson, T., Kleber, M. E., Li, S. A., Li-gao, R., Mahajan, A., Matsuda, K., Meidtner, K., Meng, W., Montasser, M. E., Van Der Most, P. J., Munz, M., Nutile, T., Palviainen, T., Prasad, G., Prasad, R. B., Priyanka, T. D. S., Rizzi, F., Salvi, E., Sapkota, B. R., Shriner, D., Skotte, L., Smart, M. C., Smith, A. V., Van Der Spek, A., Spracklen, C. N., Strawbridge, R. J., Tajuddin, S. M., Trompet, S., Turman, C., Verweij, N., Viberti, C., Wang, L., Warren, H. R., Wootton, R. E., Yanek, L. R., Yao, J., Yousri, N. A., Zhao, W., Adeyemo, A. A., Afaq, S., Aguilar-salinas, C. A., Akiyama, M., Albert, M. L., Allison, M. A., Alver, M., Aung, T., Azizi, F., Bentley, A. R., Boeing, H., Boerwinkle, E., Borja, J. B., De Borst, G. J., Bottinger, E. P., Broer, L., Campbell, H., Chanock, S., Chee, M., Chen, G., Chen, Y. I., Chen, Z., Chiu, Y., Cocca, M., Collins, F. S., Concas, M. P., Corley, J., Cugliari, G., Van Dam, R. M., Damulina, A., Daneshpour, M. S., Day, F. R., Delgado, G. E., Dhana, K., Doney, A. S. F., Dörr, M., Doumatey, A. P., Dzimiri, N., Ebenesersdóttir, S. S., Elliott, J., Elliott, P., Ewert, R., Felix, J. F., Fischer, K., Freedman, B. I., Girotto, G., Goel, A., Gögele, M., Goodarzi, M. O., Graff, M., Granot-hershkovitz, E., Grodstein, F., Guarrera, S., Gudbjartsson, D. F., Guity, K., Gunnarsson, B., Guo, Y., Hagenaars, S. P., Haiman, C. A., Halevy, A., Harris, T. B., Hedayati, M., Van Heel, D. A., Hirata, M., Höfer, I., Hsiung, C. A., Huang, J., Hung, Y., Ikram, M. A., Jagadeesan, A., Jousilahti, P., Kamatani, Y., Kanai, M., Kerrison, N. D., Kessler, T., Khaw, K., Khor, C. C., De Kleijn, D. P. V., Koh, W., Kolcic, I., Kraft, P., Krämer, B. K., Kutalik, Z., Kuusisto, J., Langenberg, C., Launer, L. J., Lawlor, D. A., Lee, I., Lee, W., Lerch, M. M., Li, L., Liu, J., Loh, M., London, S. J., Loomis, S., Lu, Y., Luan, J., Mägi, R., Manichaikul, A. W., Manunta, P., Másson, G., Matoba, N., Mei, X. W., Meisinger, C., Meitinger, T., Mezzavilla, M., Milani, L., Millwood, I. Y., Momozawa, Y., Moore, A., Morange, P., Moreno-macías, H., Mori, T. A., Morrison, A. C., Muka, T., Murakami, Y., Murray, A. D., De Mutsert, R., Mychaleckyj, J. C., Nalls, M. A., Nauck, M., Neville, M. J., Nolte, I. M., Ong, K. K., Orozco, L., Padmanabhan, S., Pálsson, G., Pankow, J. S., Pattaro, C., Pattie, A., Polasek, O., Poulter, N., Pramstaller, P. P., Quintana-murci, L., Räikkönen, K., Ralhan, S., Rao, D. C., Van Rheenen, W., Rich, S. S., Ridker, P. M., Rietveld, C. A., Robino, A., Van Rooij, F. J. A., Ruggiero, D., Saba, Y., Sabanayagam, C., Sabater-lleal, M., Sala, C. F., Salomaa, V., Sandow, K., Schmidt, H., Scott, L. J., Scott, W. R., Sedaghati-khayat, B., Sennblad, B., Van Setten, J., Sever, P. J., Sheu, W. H., Shi, Y., Shrestha, S., Shukla, S. R., Sigurdsson, J. K., Sikka, T. T., Singh, J. R., Smith, B. H., Stančáková, A., Stanton, A., Starr, J. M., Stefansdottir, L., Straker, L., Sulem, P., Sveinbjornsson, G., Swertz, M. A., Taylor, A. M., Taylor, K. D., Terzikhan, N., Tham, Y., Thorleifsson, G., Thorsteinsdottir, U., Tillander, A., Tracy, R. P., Tusié-luna, T., Tzoulaki, I., Vaccargiu, S., Vangipurapu, J., Veldink, J. H., Vitart, V., Völker, U., Vuoksimaa, E., Wakil, S. M., Waldenberger, M., Wander, G. S., Wang, Y. X., Wareham, N. J., Wild, S., Yajnik, C. S., Yuan, J., Zeng, L., Zhang, L., Zhou, J., Amin, N., Asselbergs, F. W., Bakker, S. J. L., Becker, D. M., Lehne, B., Bennett, D. A., Van Den Berg, L. H., Berndt, S. I., Bharadwaj, D., Bielak, L. F., Bochud, M., Boehnke, M., Bouchard, C., Bradfield, J. P., Brody, J. A., Campbell, A., Carmi, S., Caulfield, M. J., Cesarini, D., Chambers, J. C., Chandak, G. R., Cheng, C., Ciullo, M., Cornelis, M., Cusi, D., Smith, G. D., Deary, I. J., Dorajoo, R., Van Duijn, C. M., Ellinghaus, D., Erdmann, J., Eriksson, J. G., Evangelou, E., Evans, M. K., Faul, J. D., Feenstra, B., Feitosa, M., Foisy, S., Franke, A., Friedlander, Y., Gasparini, P., Gieger, C., Gonzalez, C., Goyette, P., Grant, S. F. A., Griffiths, L. R., Groop, L., Gudnason, V., Gyllensten, U., Hakonarson, H., Hamsten, A., Van Der Harst, P., Heng, C., Hicks, A. A., Hochner, H., Huikuri, H., Hunt, S. C., Jaddoe, V. W. V., De Jager, P. L., Johannesson, M., Johansson, Å., Jonas, J. B., Jukema, J. W., Junttila, J., Kaprio, J., Kardia, S. L. R., Karpe, F., Kumari, M., Laakso, M., Van Der Laan, S. W., Lahti, J., Laudes, M., Lea, R. A., Lieb, W., Lumley, T., Martin, N. G., März, W., Matullo, G., Mccarthy, M. I., Medland, S. E., Merriman, T. R., Metspalu, A., Meyer, B. F., Mohlke, K. L., Montgomery, G. W., Mook-kanamori, D., Munroe, P. B., North, K. E., Nyholt, D. R., O’connell, J. R., Ober, C., Oldehinkel, A. J., Palmas, W., Palmer, C., Pasterkamp, G. G., Patin, E., Pennell, C. E., Perusse, L., Peyser, P. A., Pirastu, M., Polderman, T. J. C., Porteous, D. J., Posthuma, D., Psaty, B. M., Rioux, J. D., Rivadeneira, F., Rotimi, C., Rotter, J. I., Rudan, I., Den Ruijter, H. M., Sanghera, D. K., Sattar, N., Schmidt, R., Schulze, M. B., Schunkert, H., Scott, R. A., Shuldiner, A. R., Sim, X., Small, N., Smith, J. A., Sotoodehnia, N., Tai, E., Teumer, A., Timpson, N. J., Toniolo, D., Tregouet, D., Tuomi, T., Vollenweider, P., Wang, C. A., Weir, D. R., Whitfield, J. B., Wijmenga, C., Wong, T., Wright, J., Yang, J., Yu, L., Zemel, B. S., Zonderman, A. B., Perola, M., Magnusson, P. K. E., Uitterlinden, A. G., Kooner, J. S., Chasman, D. I., Loos, R. J. F., Franceschini, N., Franke, L., Haley, C. S., Hayward, C., Walters, R. G., Perry, J. R. B., Esko, T., Helgason, A., Stefansson, K., Joshi, P. K., Kubo, M. & Wilson, J. F., 31 Oct 2019, In: Nature Communications. 10, 1

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  • Runs of homozygosity: windows into population history and trait architecture

    Ceballos, F. C., Joshi, P., Clark, D., Ramsay, M. & Wilson, J., 15 Jan 2018, (E-pub ahead of print) In: Nature Reviews Genetics.

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  • Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations

    Joshi, P. K., Esko, T., Mattsson, H., Eklund, N., Gandin, I., Nutile, T., Jackson, A. U., Schurmann, C., Smith, A. V., Zhang, W., Okada, Y., Stančáková, A., Faul, J. D., Zhao, W., Bartz, T. M., Concas, M. P., Franceschini, N., Enroth, S., Vitart, V., Trompet, S. & 30 others, Guo, X., Chasman, D. I., O'Connel, J. R., Corre, T., Nongmaithem, S. S., Chen, Y., Mangino, M., Ruggiero, D., Campbell, A., Davies, G., Haley, C., Harris, S. E., Hastie, N. D., Kerr, S. M., Liewald, D. C. M., Navarro, P., Redmond, P., Wild, S., BioBank Japan Project, Morris, A. D., Starr, J. M., Deary, I. J., Pirastu, N., Wilson, J. G., Rudan, I., Porteous, D. J., Hayward, C., Wright, A. F., Campbell, H. & Wilson, J. F., 23 Jul 2015, In: Nature. 523, 7561, p. 459-462 4 p.

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  • Genome-wide meta-analysis associates HLA-DQA1/DRB1 and LPA and lifestyle factors with human longevity

    Joshi, P. K., Pirastu, N., Kentistou, K. A., Fischer, K., Hofer, E., Schraut, K. E., Clark, D. W., Nutile, T., Barnes, C. L. K., Timmers, P. R. H. J., Shen, X., Gandin, I., Mcdaid, A. F., Hansen, T. F., Gordon, S. D., Giulianini, F., Boutin, T. S., Abdellaoui, A., Zhao, W., Medina-Gomez, C. & 93 others, Bartz, T. M., Trompet, S., Lange, L. A., Raffield, L., van der Spek, A., Galesloot, T. E., Proitsi, P., Yanek, L. R., Bielak, L. F., Payton, A., Murgia, F., Concas, M. P., Biino, G., Tajuddin, S. M., Seppälä, I., Amin, N., Boerwinkle, E., Børglum, A. D., Campbell, A., Demerath, E. W., Demuth, I., Faul, J. D., Ford, I., Gialluisi, A., Gögele, M., Graff, M., Hingorani, A., Hottenga, J-J., Hougaard, D. M., Hurme, M. A., Ikram, M. A., Jylhä, M., Kuh, D., Ligthart, L., Lill, C. M., Lindenberger, U., Lumley, T., Mägi, R., Marques-Vidal, P., Medland, S. E., Milani, L., Nagy, R., Ollier, W. E. R., Peyser, P. A., Pramstaller, P. P., Ridker, P. M., Rivadeneira, F., Ruggiero, D., Saba, Y., Schmidt, R., Schmidt, H., Slagboom, P. E., Smith, B. H., Smith, J. A., Sotoodehnia, N., Steinhagen-Thiessen, E., van Rooij, F. J. A., Verbeek, A. L., Vermeulen, S. H., Vollenweider, P., Wang, Y., Werge, T., Whitfield, J. B., Zonderman, A. B., Lehtimäki, T., Evans, M. K., Pirastu, M., Fuchsberger, C., Bertram, L., Pendleton, N., Kardia, S. L. R., Ciullo, M., Becker, D. M., Wong, A., Psaty, B. M., van Duijn, C. M., Wilson, J. G., Jukema, J. W., Kiemeney, L., Uitterlinden, A. G., Franceschini, N., North, K. E., Weir, D. R., Metspalu, A., Boomsma, D. I., Hayward, C., Chasman, D., Martin, N. G., Sattar, N., Campbell, H., Esko, T., Kutalik, Z. & Wilson, J. F., 13 Oct 2017, In: Nature Communications. 8, 13 p., 910.

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