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huntington willard
Director, Geisinger National Precision Health
Associate Chief Scientific Officer

Geisinger Research North Bethesda 
6101 Executive Blvd., Suite 110
North Bethesda, MD 20852

Huntington F. Willard, PhD

Research Interests

Trained in human genetics, Dr. Willard has focused his research, educational, and leadership interests at the crossroads of basic genetics and genome biology and their impact on society and the practice of medicine. His research group's efforts on the function of the human genome led to the identification of the XIST non-coding RNA gene that controls X chromosome inactivation and to the genomic definition of human centromeres, comprised of complex repetitive DNA sequences that form specialized heterochromatin underlying chromosome segregation in mitosis and meiosis. He has led complex interdisciplinary units that combined both basic genetics and medical genetics at major universities and hospitals and, at various institutions, started new degree programs in genetics/genomics, genetic counseling, bioinformatics, and genome policy. He is co-author of the textbook Genetics in Medicine, and co-editor of the Genomic and Precision Medicine book series. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Prior to coming to Geisinger full-time, he was chair of the Geisinger Scientific Advisory Board from 2011-2017.

His current interests focus on the challenge of implementing knowledge and data from the sequence of individual genomes into the practice of healthcare, both at Geisinger and nationally. This will require fundamental shifts in how we view genomes and DNA, the prevention of disease, the nature of one's healthcare, and the state of health and well-being itself.

Recent Publications

  • Jain M, Olsen HE, Turner DJ, Stoddart D, Bulazel KV, Paten B, Haussler D, Willard HF, Akeson M, Miga KH (2018).  Linear assembly of a human Y centromere using Nanopore long reads. Nature Biotech. 36: 321-323.
  • Willard HF, Feinberg DT, Ledbetter DH (2018).  How Geisinger is using gene screening to prevent disease.  Harvard Business Rev. Full text 
  • Ginsburg G, Willard HF (eds) (2016). Genomic and Precision Medicine: Foundations, Translation, and Implementation, 3rd edition. New York: Elsevier, 399 pp.
  • Nussbaum RL, McInnes RR, Willard HF (2015). Genetics in Medicine, 8th Edition. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co., 546 pp.
  • Altemose N, Miga KH, Maggioni M, Willard HF (2014). Genomic characterization of large heterochromatic gaps in the human genome assembly. PLoS Comp. Biol. 10: e1003628. PMID 24831296
  • Miga KH, Newton Y, Jain M, Altemose N, Willard HF, Kent WJ (2014). Centromere reference models for human chromosomes X and Y satellite arrays. Genome Res. 24: 697-707. PMID 24501022
  • Hayden KE, Strome ED, Merrett SE, Lee H-R, Rudd MK, Willard HF (2013). Sequences associated with centromere competency in the human genome. Mol. Cell. Biol. 33: 763-772. PMID 23230266
  • Haga SB, Barry WT, Mills R, Ginsburg GS, Svetkey L, Sullivan J, Willard HF (2013). Public knowledge of and attitudes toward genetics and genetic testing. Genet. Test. Mol. Biomarkers 17: 327-335. PMID 23406207
  • Williams RS, Willard HF, Snyderman R (2003). Personalized health planning. Science 300: 549. PMID 12714710


PhD, Yale University, 1979
AB, Harvard College, 1975

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