Karen E. Nelson

The J. Craig Venter Institute

Election Year: 2017
Primary Section: 41, Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member


Dr. Karen E. Nelson is the President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and was the head of the Microbiome group at Human Longevity Inc. Prior to being appointed President, she held a number of other positions at the JCVI, including Director of JCVI's Rockville Campus, and Director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics in the Department of Human Genomic Medicine at the JCVI. Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Nelson received her undergraduate degree from the University of the West Indies, and her PhD from Cornell University. She has authored or co-authored over 170 peer reviewed publications, edited three books, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Microbial Ecology. She also serves on the Editorial Boards of BMC Genomics, GigaScience, and the Central European Journal of Biology. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board of Life Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, an Honorary Professor at the University of the West Indies and a Helmholtz International Fellow. Dr. Nelson has extensive experience in microbial ecology, microbial genomics, microbial physiology and metagenomics. Dr. Nelson has led several genomic and metagenomic efforts, and led the first human metagenomics study that was published in 2006. Additional ongoing studies in her group include metagenomic approaches to study the ecology of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals, studies on the relationship between the microbiome and various human and animal disease conditions, reference genome sequencing and analysis primarily for the human body, and other -omics studies.

Research Interests

The work of Dr. Nelson’s group focuses on the human microbiome and its impact on health and disease. In addition to investigating emerging infectious diseases and their impact on the microbiome, team members are focused on the microbiome in metabolic disorders, and chronic disease conditions. There are also ongoing investigations on the evolution of the microbiome in humans, possibilities for probiotics, and the microbiome in aging. In addition to looking at the microbial components, circulating metabolites, gene transcripts and proteins are also giving tremendous insight into the human microbiome.

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