Evolutionary basis of human diseases in western Eurasia: insights from ancient genomics


  • Prof Eske Willerslev

    University of Cambridge

  • Dr Rasmus Nielsen

    University of California, Berkeley

  • Dr Terry Jones

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof Julian Parkhill

    Wellcome Sanger Institute

  • Prof Kristian Kristiansen

    University of Gothenburg

  • Prof Laurent Excoffier

    University of Bern

  • Prof Richard Durbin

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof Ron Fouchier

    Erasmus Medical Centre

Project summary

The evolutionary underpinnings for the variations in health status and disease susceptibilities among different populations around the world remain poorly understood despite their importance to assessing and addressing disease risk in an increasingly complex world. 

We will investigate past demographic, selective and epidemiological processes that shaped the present-day genetic profile of western Eurasians using genomic data from ancient humans and their pathogens spanning the past 10,000 years. We will clarify their evolutionary histories and their pathogens and evaluate the effect on the health status and disease profiles of present-day populations in the region. 

This work has the potential to inform healthcare strategies, including pathogen surveillance and the development of vaccines, diagnostics and drugs.