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UNT Transdisciplinary Converence on Ancestral Genomics & African-American Disease Susceptibilities



A conference 

A Conference that Moves us Beyond Race to Embrace Ancestral Genomics
April 17, 2020 - April 18, 2020

University of North Texas 

Embassy Suites Denton  3100 Town Center Tr, Denton, TX 76201  |  ancestral.genomics.conference@gmail.com

UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics & African-American Disease Susceptibilities

We are pleased to announce the opening of abstract submission (Registration begins Nov. 1, 2019) for the April 17-18, 2020 UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics & African-American Disease Susceptibilities. This two day Conference will bring together pioneers in the fields of ancestral genomics, epidemiology and related fields. Its focus will be on developing innovative approaches to applying genomic medicine to African-Americans and other non-European ethnic populations. This meeting will also bring together specialists from the National Library of Medicine, the Cooperative Human Tissue Network and the National Center for Biotechnology Information to conduct workshops on a range of issues, including the authentication of ancestral cell lines, efforts to bringing to bioinformatics data-gathering, and effective methods for  recruiting underrepresented populations to participate in medical studies. 


Areas of Interest

This Conference will seek out ways to improve the relevance of Genomics and the performance of the Precision medicine model when applied to minority communities, focusing on these areas of interest: 

  • African-American Health Disparities

  • Ancestral Genomics

  • Bioethics​​ 

  • Epidemiology

  • Ethnic Oncology​

  • Ethnopharmacology

  • Evolutionary History

  • Medical Anthropology

  • Nutrition in an Ethnically Diverse Society  


Conference Schedule at-a-Glance

The Conference workshops and panels will take place on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, 2020.  Registration fees will include dinner on Friday, April 17, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, April 18, 2020 


Friday, April 17, 2020


2 p.m. – 5 p.m.   REGISTRATION


2 p.m.                 Welcome

                            Professor Jennifer Wallach, [author of Getting What We Need Ourselves: How Food Has Shaped                                    African American Life; UNT  Department of History]     


2:10                     Introduction to Plenary Session                                          


2:20                    Keynote Speaker Dr. Jean Zenklusen, [National Institutes of Health/NHGRI]


3:15                     Break


3:30 – 4:30         WORKSHOP SESSION I: WHY SHOULD AFRICAN-AMERICANS OF SLAVE ANCESTRY BE                                                  GIVEN A UNIQUE GENOMIC PROFILE? Professor Constance Hilliard [author of                                                                      Ancestral Gene Variants (AGV) Model of Ethnic Disease Susceptibility, UNT]

                           [National  Center for Biotechnology Information & the National Library of Medicine]

6 - 6:45              WORKSHOP SESSION III: RESPONDING TO THE AUTHENTIFICATION CRISIS IN ANCESTRAL                                            LINES   [Cooperative Human Tissue Network]
7  – 8:30 p.m.    Dinner SPEAKER  Dr. Rick Kittles [Geneticist, City of Hope]

Saturday, April 18, 2020




8:15 – 8:30 am  Opening Plenary Session


11:15 – 12:15       PANEL SESSION III:    DISEASE TRIGGERS IN AFRICAN-AMERICANS: THE ANCESTRAL TRPV6                                        CALCIUM ION CHANNEL                     
12:30 – 1:30       Lunch 


5:30 – 5:45         Closing Plenary Session


Our Speakers

Dr. Patricia Francis-Lyon

University of San Francisco

Bioinformatics research and cancer disparities in underrepresented populations


Constance Hilliard, Ph.D.

University of North Texas

Author of Ancestral Gene Variants (AGV) Model of Ethnic Disease Susceptibility and Professor of African Evolutionary History

Dr. Jean Zenklusen 

National Institutes of Health/NHGRI

Dr. Rick Kittles

City of Hope National Medical Center

Geneticist and founding director of the Division of Health Equities at the City of Hope National Medical Center.

Dr. Alexander Sobolevsky

Columbia University

Professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics

Rafiki Cai

Chief Technology Officer of Friends of The Congo and community organizer. 

Dr. Alice Popejoy

Stanford University

Genetics and diversity researcher


Abstract Submissions Guidelines

Please click on the buttons below to send us your original research abstract submissions.  At the top page of the submission provide the following: name, email, university & department or other affiliation. 

Select File
Max File Size 15MB

Important Dates for Abstract Submissions


DECEMBER 15, 2019

Abstract Submission Deadline


JANUARY 15, 2020

Notification of Acceptance*

APRIL 17-18, 2020

UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics & African-American Disease Susceptibilities, University of North Texas, Denton, TX


The Planning Committee of the UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics & African-American Disease Susceptibilities is pleased to invite authors to submit abstracts of their original research for oral/slide presentations and posters to be delivered at its April 17-18, 2020 meeting.


The Challenge


This will be a working conference that while limited in scope, will nevertheless raise vital questions that will help shape the future of genomics research for underrepresented populations.  A crisis exists in the Genomics and Precision Medicine field generated by new but counterintuitive discoveries regarding the nature of human genetic diversity.  How is it possible that Kenyans and Tanzanians would have more genetic diversity compared to each other than either would when contrasted to the average European?  The answer, of course, is that the Africans carry the ancestral genome, which contains nearly twice as many genetic variants as those populations whose ancestors migrated out of Africa.  Non-Africans, on the other hand, represent subsets of the human genetic variant pool nested in the larger ancestral genome.  But what do these new insights have to do with health and medicine?  At the present time approximately 81% of the European genome has been studied, but only 3% of the African genome. 


The Topics

If your original research addresses any of the questions below, please submit a 300 word abstract for our peer-review Evaluation Committee's consideration.  Our abstract selection criteria will be based on the quality, originality, and scientific or other disciplinary credibility that your research contributes to any one of these topics: 

  • Is the most cost effective and medically beneficial fix to diversifying the reference genome an approach that regularly adds patches of non-European populations to it?  Or, if the goal is reducing the number of genetic variants in non-Europeans that are tagged “rare” or VUS (Variants of Unknown Significance) should more emphasis be placed on identifying discrete ancestral genomes, which recognize the genomic adaptations of diverse ancestral populations to their unique environmental niches?


  • How should racial classifications be used in genomic medicine?   African-Americans of slave origins possess an admixture profile that is on average 75%  interior-Niger-Kordofanian West African DNA, 24% Northern European DNA and 1% Native American DNA.  They do not carry the same genomic profile as Nigerian-Americans, who are of predominantly coastal-Niger-Kordanian ancestry.  And yet, they are both categorized as belonging to the same race.  Given the growing accuracy of  DNA testing, can or should ancestry be used in place of racial categories? 


  • How should genomic medicine grapple with the fact that different sets of genetic variants or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs)  trigger what appear to be the same traits or diseases in different genetic populations?  (Europeans share one trigger for lactase non-persistence, Tanzanians have a different one, and their Kenyan neighbors have another one altogether).


  • What role should the African genome play in medical research since it carries the full range of human genetic variation and thus contains within it the possibility of disease breakthroughs that might benefit the entire human species?  (Were HeLa cells unique in their immortality or a harbinger of other discoveries yet to be made in the unexplored African ancestral genome?)    


  • Does the One-Size-Fits-All or colorblind approach to medical research silently racialize Europeans by universalizing their genomes and applying it to all human populations? 


  • Are African-Americans more susceptible to TRPV6-expressing cancers ((Metastatic Prostate Cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Ovarian Cancer) than other U.S. demographics?  If so is the ancestral TRPV6a calcium ion channel variant the culprit?


  • Is the TRPV6a variant more calcium absorbent than the derived (European) TRPV6b variant? If so, might overexposure to free calcium ions trigger a higher susceptibility to TRPV6-expressing cancers in populations who carry the ancestral TRPV6a variant?


  • Do all humans have the same dietary calcium needs?  The Niger-Kordofanian West Africans consume 200-300 mg/calcium/day but have minimal rates of osteoporosis.  Americans of Northern European origin consume 1000-1200 mg/calcium/day, but are at high risk of fragile bone diseases.  Could high calcium consumption trigger potential malignancies or preeclampsia in childbirth for African-Americans and other populations who have strong bones despite a lower than USDA-required calcium intake?  Should U.S. calcium intake be stratified by ancestry rather than based on a one-size-fits-all model? 


  • In order to avoid misdiagnosing African-Americans with kidney disease, U.S. laboratories have added a correction factor to this genetic population’s eGFR score. Should other biological values be stratified by ancestry in order to provide a more accurate picture of health in a particular population? 


  • Do all humans have the same dietary sodium needs?  The Niger-Kordofanian ancestors of African-Americans inhabit the sodium-deficient interior of West Africa.  They are genetically adapted to consuming 200-300 mg/day/sodium, levels that would be too low even to meet the survival needs of coastal West Africans.  Does transition from a low-sodium ancestral diet to the current 3400 mg/sodium/day intake trigger salt-sensitive hypertension and kidney failure in African-Americans? Should U.S. sodium intake be stratified by ancestry rather than based on a one-size-fits-all model.

  • What advances are being made in ethnopharmacology that may be of special benefit to African-Americans?

* Authors will receive notification of the status of their abstract via email. If accepted, abstracts must be presented at the 2020 UNT Transdisciplinary Conference.   The presenting author must register for the meeting, prepare their poster (or oral presentation if selected) and present during their assigned session time.


Your  abstract must contain:

  1. A descriptive title, list of authors and institutions;

  2. An introduction/rationale to the study that ties it to one of the topic questions listed above;;

  3. The methods used;

  4. The results of the study including new insights, analyses and data not previously published or presented at a major national or international meeting;

  5. Conclusions of the study. It is not satisfactory to state: "The results will be discussed."

Abstracts reporting results of meta-analyses and systematic reviews will also be considered.

ALL ABSTRACTS NOT MEETING THESE MINIMUM CRITERIA WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. It is recommended but not required that the abstract content be organized with the following headings: RATIONALE, METHODS, RESULTS, AND CONCLUSIONS.

Abstract Submission Fee: $20.00

  • Completing your payment is necessary to submit your abstract. Your payment may be submitted electronically using a credit card on a safe and secure site.

  • The abstract submission fee is not refundable, even if the abstract is not accepted.

  • The abstract submission fee does not register you for the Conference. Separate registration fees apply. If your abstract is accepted, you must register for the conference in order to present your abstract. Information on registration/fees can be found at conference@thoracic.org mid-December 2019.


The abstract must be submitted in English. If accepted, the abstract must be presented in English.


Prior Publication:

Abstracts are not to be submitted for consideration if the work covered is to be published or presented at a major national or international meeting prior to the 2020 ATS International Conference. Abstracts of work presented at local or regional meetings may be submitted for consideration. If the abstract is only presented at a local meeting that abstract should not be posted on a publicly available website (or appear in another journal prior to the ATS Conference, even if it is just the abstract that is being published).


Registration Open Now - seating limited


Constance Hilliard, Ph.D.

1155 Union Cir
Denton, Denton County 76203