Dear Friends and Colleagues, As we bid adieu to Kasturi, we do so with a profound sense of gratitude for her unwavering…
The world’s most brilliant minds in human genetics and genomics are converging in Washington, D.C., for the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG 2023).
The landscape has evolved from recombinant DNA techniques to the revolutionary genome editing prowess of CRISPR-Cas9, offering new avenues for the treatment and correction of genetic disorders. Celebrating 75 years of advancing the frontiers of human genetics and genomics, ASHG is reminiscing the history, embracing the present, and looking at what lies beyond the horizon for human genetics and genomics.
ASHG will be guided by its Board of Directors and recently announced its newly appointed members. Among these distinguished experts are none other than two of our PLOS Genetics board members – Dr. Sarah Tishkoff and Dr. Scott Williams. Sarah is stepping into the role of the incoming president-elect, and Scott is coming on board as a new board member. We’re thrilled and honored to have the privilege of working with these incredible scientists. Huge congratulations to you both!
In an exclusive interview with PLOS, we had the privilege to delve into their motivations, aspirations, and the promising opportunities that lie ahead.
What motivated you to run for the board of directors?
Scott: My major motivation is to bring to the board my years of experience and subsequent perspective to the study of huma disease and evolution. A key interest of mine is to push for the globalization of human genetic studies so that we can capture a larger swath of extant variation and how it affects disease risk especially risk variation among geographic populations.
Sarah: I was honored to be elected as an upcoming President of the ASHG which has been my home society since I was a graduate student. I want to be able to give back to the society that has played such a central role in my academic and professional career and to make sure that the next generation of scientists have the resources to succeed.
What are your primary goals during your tenure?
Scott: To expand our understanding of genetic diversity from an American one to a global one. Understanding genetic diversity/variation at multiple levels is key to improving health for all people.
Sarah: My primary goals are to promote equity in the human genetics and genomics community at all levels: in the workforce, in inclusion of ethnically diverse populations in research studies, and in implementation of genomics research, ranging from more accurate assessments of genetic risk to gene therapy approaches for curing genetic disease.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for ASHG?
Scott: I think the perception of science in the US is problematic and especially as it relates to recent events. Genetics of course is in the crosshairs as it can be confounded with many socially and environmentally defined factors such as race and ethnicity. The challenge is to place genetics in the greater context of disease risk. That said, our ability to characterize both individual and population level patterns of genetic variation are unprecedented and we need to make sure that this work proceeds ethically.
Sarah: The challenges for the ASHG are also its primary strengths: We are a very diverse society in regard to research and clinical focus (for example, our society includes genetic counselors, population geneticists, clinical geneticists, educators, and policy makers, among many others). We have to make sure that the ASHG is a home for everyone regardless of their research focus. We also have a responsibility to communicate to the general public, and to congress, the importance of supporting genetics and genomics research which will lead to breakthroughs in identifying and treating disease. Further, we need to be a voice to ensure that human genetic and genomic studies are being conducted and implemented in an ethical manner.
What do you see as the role of open science for the community?
Scott: I am a firm believer in openness in science – this is the best way to move forward most expeditiously. Free sharing is the best way to speed up discovery.
Sarah: Open science is going to be key for achieving the goal of health equity and ensuring that all people across the globe benefit from genetics and genomics research.