Postdoc in applied evolutionary biology (USA) ~

24 de septiembre de 2015

Postdoc in applied evolutionary biology (USA)


Selfish genetic elements have been studied for over a century, and as far back as the 1960's researchers became interested in using the power of selfish genetic elements to drive genes into pest species to suppress their impacts (Gould et al. 2006). Until recently, the focus of applied work was on naturally occurring elements. In the past decade some progress was made on developing synthetic elements that mimicked natural meiotic drive and selective embryo-killing, but de-novo creation of a
gene-drive system in a pest species was elusive. With the harnessing of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 system in the past few years there has been a revolution brewing in this field (Esvelt et al. 2014, Oye et al. 2014). In March 2015 a pivotal article by Gantz and Bier (2015) came out in Science
on-line demonstrating a CRISPR-Cas9 construct in Drosophila with strong gene drive. This proof of principle has gained much attention.

Prospects are good that very soon a single student could engineer a system for driving deleterious or behavior modifying genes into pest populations. Not everyone is comfortable with these developments and there has even been a call for a moratorium on certain experiments. There are
also concerns about nefarious use of the technology.

The  bottom-line is that progress in molecular biology is ahead of the population genetic work needed to build systems that are less risky but accomplish changes in the public interest.

We have been funded by the NIH and the W. M. Keck Foundation to conduct this kind of population genetic research. Our focus has been on mosquitoes that transmit dengue and malaria, but we are also interested in other biological systems (There is hope that these selfish genetic elements can save endangered species like Hawaiian honeycreepers and specific seabirds (Gould 2008, Esvelt et al. 2014).

The postdoc in this position will build a set of simple to complex models to examine the expected dynamics of gene drive systems in mosquitoes and other taxa.

The most detailed model that we have developed simulates the population dynamics and population genetics of Aedes aegypti, the vector of dengue, in a city on the Amazon river, Iquitos, for which there are rich data sets on both mosquito dynamics and dengue epidemiology (e.g. Magori et
al. 2009, Okamoto et al 2014). An accompanying epidemiological model is currently under development. The goals of two other postdocs in our group are to expand the mosquito model and the human epidemiology model to encompass the entire city of about 400,000 people. The postdoc in
this new position will collaborate with the other postdocs to use these detailed models to test gene drive systems, but will also develop more generic models (e.g. Huang et al. 2010).

In addition to working on model development and analysis, the person in this position will have the opportunity to collaborate in an interdisciplinary research group composed of mosquito ecologists, disease epidemiologists, molecular biologists, biomathematicians, ethicists, and scientists from disease-endemic countries. We are dedicated to taking seriously the ethical and political issues surrounding this technology.

DESIREABLE SKILLS: A background in population genetics and the ability
to program in C++ (or knowledge of a related programming language),
and training in evaluation of mechanistic models.

TO APPLY: email a cover letter and CV to


Esvelt,  K. M.,  A. L. Smidler, F. Catteruccia,
G. M. Church. 2014. Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration
of wild populations. eLife. 10.7554/eLife.03401.

Gantz, V. M.  and Bier, E. 2015. The mutagenic chain reaction: A
method for converting heterozygous to homozygous mutations. Science
24 April 2015- 442-444. Published online 19 March 2015

Gould, F. 2008. Broadening the application of evolutionarily based
genetic pest management. Evolution 62: 500ĄV510.

Gould, F., K. Magori, Y. X. Huang 2006 Genetic strategies for controlling
mosquito-borne diseases. American Scientist. 94 (3): 238-   246.

Huang, Y., Lloyd, A.L., Legros, M., Gould, F. 2010. Gene-drive into
insect populations with age and spatial structure: a theoretical
assessment. Evol. Appl. ISSN 1752-4571.

Magori, K., M. Legros, M. Puente, D. A. Focks, T. W. Scott, A. Lloyd,
F. Gould. 2009. Skeeter Buster: a stochastic, spatially-explicit
modeling tool for studying Aedes aegypti population replacement
and population suppression strategies. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(9):
e508. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000508

Okamoto, K. W., Robert M. A., Gould, F., Lloyd, A. L.2014) Feasible
Introgression of an Anti-pathogen Transgene into an Urban Mosquito
Population without Using Gene-Drive. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 8(7):
e2827. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002827.

Oye, K. A. et al. 2014. Regulating gene drives. Science. 345:626-628
Published online 17 July 2014

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