SEATTLE – Genome scientist Evan Eichler and infectious disease researcher Tulio de Oliveira are both professors at the University of Washington School of Medicine. They have also been named to the TIME 100 List, gaining recognition with the likes of famous artists, innovators, activists and world leaders.
The TIME 100 list, published annually since 1999, catalogs the most influential people in the world—for better or for worse. Making the list this year were cultural juggernauts like Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey, artists like Zendaya, Simu Liu and Andrew Garfield, and world leaders like Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
This year’s list also includes two UW Medicine scientists, included for their part in COVID-19 research and human genome sequencing.
Evan Eichler is a genome sciences professor, and was honored as part of the team—which includes Adam Phillippy, Karen Miga and Michael Schatz—that finished mapping the human genome. Long ago published at 85% completion, the Humane Genome Project was pocked with gaps that remained unfilled and unknown for decades afterward. Eichler’s lab pioneered advances in DNA sequencing that allowed them to identify areas that are ‘uniquely human,’ not shared by any other species.
This work provides the clearest look at “the very nature of who we are as human beings,” writes biochemist and 2020 Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna.
Tulio de Oliveira is an affiliate professor in UW’s Department of Global Health, and is a faculty member of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Oliveira and his former Ph.D. student—Sikhulile Moyo, now laboratory director at the Botswana-Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory—first detected and reported the COVID-19 Omicron variant in November.
The two detected the variant in COVID-positive samples in Africa, which alerted the world to brace for another wave of coronavirus infections. De Oliviera’s work in the past 20 years has also informed public health responses to Zika, HIV, dengue and COVID-19, UW Medicine says.
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“The international response to news of this discovery—which included travel bans imposed on African countries by other nations—was complex,” writes John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Preventione. “It made me reflect on what global cooperation and solidarity must look like when we fight a common threat like COVID-19.”