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Fred Hutch evolutionary geneticist Harmit Malik selected as an HHMI investigator
Date:5/9/2013

flies and yeast, Malik sees conflicts raging within the nuclei of cells as genes jockey for evolutionary dominance. Such clashes can have a long-term impact on organisms, as they can alter the function of essential genes.

Delving deeper into genes that help fend off viral conflicts, Malik and colleagues have shown that adaptations in those genes offer a record of indirect "paleovirology," in which scientists try to identify ancient viruses by virtue of the imprints they leave on the evolution of host genes.

The structure of our genome reflects a "negotiated truce," Malik said, and the best way to understand that truce is to reconstruct the events that produced it. This approach has profound implications for medicine and science because it uncovers new antiviral strategies, mechanisms of immunity and clues about autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Malik's lab also investigates evolutionary competition between components that are involved in the essential process that ensures chromosomes divide and segregate equally during cell division. He has pioneered the idea that chromosomal competition for evolutionary dominance can drive the unexpectedly rapid evolution of these essential components. These findings have direct implications for how chromosomal imbalances can occur in cancer and for how two recently diverged species can become reproductively isolated from each other.

Malik's many awards include the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for his work on the coevolution of humans and diseases, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Kimmel Scholar Award, a Searle Scholar Award and a Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award in Infectious Diseases. He is also the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the nation's highest honor for scientists at the beginning of their independent research careers.

Malik earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Insti
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Source:Eurekalert

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