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Keolu Fox

Keolu Fox Ph.D., Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) is an assistant professor at University of California, San Diego, affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, the Global Health Program, the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, the Climate Action Lab, and the Indigenous Futures Lab. He holds a Ph.D. in Genome Sciences from the University of Washington, Seattle (2016). Dr. Fox’s multi-disciplinary research interests include genome sequencing, genome engineering, computational biology, evolutionary genetics, paleogenetics, and Indigenizing biomedical research. His primary research focuses on questions of functionalizing genomics, testing theories of natural selection by editing genes and determining the functions of mutations.

Dr. Fox has published numerous articles on human genetics, biomedicine, ancient genomics, and Indigenous data sovereignty, most recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, and the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Dr. Fox is a recipient of grants from numerous organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, the American Association for Physical Anthropology, Emerson Collective, the Social Science Research Council and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SOLVE Initiative.


Ph.D. in Genome Science, University of Washington School of Medicine (2016)

President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, UC San Diego (October 2016 to 2019)

Curriculum Vitae:

Keolu Fox Curriculum Vitae



Dr. Fox's research program is multidisciplinary in nature, reflecting his research experience in anthropology, genomics, and computer science. Currently, his research group has three overarching themes:

1.) Functionally investigating evolutionary “just-so” stories, with a particular emphasis on underrepresented groups: His lab group uses a reverse genetics approach to investigate single nucleotide variants (SNVs) that are involved in both natural selection and heath.

2.) Ancient genomics; guns, germs, and alleles: His group is particularly interested in comparing ancient and modern human genomes to better understand the role pathogens have played in shaping the genomes and immune systems of Indigenous populations.

3.) The implications of big data on society: Specifically, his group has been focusing on the connection between raw data as a resource and the emerging value of digital sequence information (DSI) derived from large datasets of human genetic variation.



TED Talk: Why genetic research must be more diverse

National Geographic: Heart Disease: how one gene makes all the difference

National Public Radio (NPR): Short Wave: A Call for Equity In Genomics Research

MIT SOLVE: Safeguarding Indigenous DNA

The Nation: The Fight for Mauna Kea Is a Fight Against Colonial Science

Recent Publications:

1.)  Fernando A. Villanea, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez, and Keolu Fox. ABO genetic variation in Neanderthals and Denisovans. (Forthcoming, 2020)

2.)  Keolu Fox. The “All of Us” Program and Indigenous Peoples.  New England Journal of Medicine. (November, 2020)

3.)  Kelly Blevins, Adele Crane, Christopher Lum, Kanako Furuta, Keolu Fox, and Anne Stone. Evolutionary history of Mycobacterium leprae in the Pacific Islands.  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. (October, 2020)

4.)  Keolu Fox. The Illusion of Inclusion — The “All of Us” Research Program and Indigenous Peoples’ DNA. New England Journal of Medicine. (July, 2020)

5.)  Krystal Tsosie, Rene Begay, Keolu Fox, and Nanibaa Garrison. Generations of Genomes: Advances in Paleogenomics Technology and Engagement for Indigenous People. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development. (July, 2020)

6.) James Hall, Tatum Simonson, and Keolu Fox. Seq-ing Higher Ground: Functional Investigation of Adaptive Variation Associated with High-Altitude Adaptation. Frontiers in Genetics. (May, 2020)

7.)  Maui Hudson, Nanibaa Garrison, Rogena Sterling, Nadine Caron, Keolu Fox, Joseph Yracheta, Jane Anderson, Phil Wilcox, and Stephanie Carroll. Rights, Interests, & Expectations: Indigenous perspectives on unrestricted access to genomic data. Nature Reviews Genetics. (April, 2020)

8.)  Keolu Fox, Kartik Lakshmi Rallapalli, and Alexis C. Komor. Rewriting Human History and Empowering Indigenous Communities with Genome Editing ToolsGenes. (January, 2020)

9.)  Keolu Fox and John Hawks. Use ancient remains more wisely. Nature. (August, 2019)

10.)  Latifa Jackson, Caitlin Kuhlman, Fatimah Jackson, and Keolu Fox. Including Vulnerable Populations in the Assessment of Data From Vulnerable Populations. Frontiers in Big Data. (June, 2019)

Honors & Awards:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (SOLVE, Indigenous Communities Fellowship, Community Prize) 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (SOLVE, Indigenous Communities Fellowship, Finalist) 2020

Emerson Collective (Cancer Research Accelerator Fellowship) 2020

Regents of the University of California (Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship) 2018

National Geographic Emerging Explorer (selected as one of fourteen ‘world-changers’) 2017

TED fellow (selected among 21 new fellows in 2016, gave a TED talk) 2016

Smithsonian, Next-Generation Native Researcher (awarded to three Indigenous researchers) 2014

Cold Spring Harbor Labs, Advanced Genome Sequencing Technologies 2014 


Grants Awarded:

Social Science Research Council (Dreaming Indigenous Futures Working Group) 2020

American Association for Physical Anthropology (Cobb Professional Development Grant) 2018

National Geographic, Center for Exploration Grant (Ancient Leprosy Genome Sequencing) 2017

NIH, Institutional Research & Academic Career Development Award 2017-2020

NIH, R01 Diversity Supplement(NIDDK) 2017-2019

NIH, Ruth L. Kirschstein Fellowship (NHLBI, F31) 2013-2015

NIH, Graduate Fellowship (NHGRI) 2010-2015