Meet the Scientists: Words from the Researchers on Anorexia Nervosa Genome-wide Association Study

by Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD

The recent article that appeared in Nature Genetics took dedicated and hard work from many individuals around the world. I asked some of those key people to create short videos on the most important take home messages for them from our paper. Below I introduce you to the researchers and their roles in the project.


Hunna Watson

Hunna Watson, PhD, MBiostats is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC Chapel Hill who hails from Perth, Australia. Hunna served as the primary analyst for the study which means hours and hours dealing with very complex data sets from around the world. Hunna is a psychologist and biostatistician who has become a card-carrying genetics analyst since joining the CEED team at UNC. Click here to hear what she has to say about the latest project.



Laura Thornton

Laura Thornton, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC and served as the Deputy Director of ANGI. Laura’s central role included coordinating across all countries involved, overseeing ethical approvals, ensuring that the data that we generated would be available to to researchers worldwide, and much much more behind the scenes work. Her experience in coordinating international studies was invaluable to the completion of this work. Listen to what Laura says about results of the ANGI study here.


Zeynep Yilmaz

Zeynep Yilmaz, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Genetics at UNC. Zeynep is a neurogeneticist, came to UNC from Toronto and played a central role in the analysis of the anorexia nervosa genotype data. She has a specific interest in the association between anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder and is pursuing the genetics underlying that comorbid pattern in her own research. Hear what Dr. Yilmaz has to say about the latest study here.


Topher Hübel

Christopher Hübel, MD is a PhD student at King’s College London and Karolinska Institutet who is specializing in psychiatric genetics. Topher played a central role in identifying the 447 other phenotypes from other genome-wide association studies that were part of the massive table of genetic correlations. He also assisted in many of the analyses. His own work focuses on the genetics of body composition. Listen to his thoughts about the study here.


Joni Coleman

Jonathan Coleman, PhD is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at King’s College London who served as an analyst and advisor on this study. Joni is highly skilled in in statistical genomics, bioinformatics, and data analysis. Dr. Coleman has extensive experience in GWAS analysis and assisted the primary analysts with problem solving some of the most complicated aspects of study. His clarity and calm guided us through our complicated statistical analysis plan. Hear his thoughts about the broader implications of our study here.

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Nick Martin

Professor Nicholas Martin, PhD is Senior Scientist and Senior Principal Research Fellow, QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane, Australia. Nick served as the Principal Investigator for the Australia arm of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI). He provided with several thoughts about the meaning of the anorexia nervosa GWAS results including: the nature of the relationship between anorexia nervosa and OCD, on the findings related to metabolism, on the role of social media in recruiting for genetic studies, and finally how proud he was of the Australian contribution to the study.

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Patrick Sullivan

Professor Patrick Sullivan, MD, FRANZCP is a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Genetics and Psychiatry at UNC, Chair of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Coordinating Committee, and an investigator on ANGI. Pat was involved with ANGI from the very beginning including designing the study, obtaining funding from the Klarman Family Foundation, working with investigators from all of the ANGI countries. His thoughts on the results can be heard here.


Gerome Breen

Gerome Breen, PhD is a Reader in the MRC Centre for Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. He also leads a biobank and a core for Genomics & Biomarkers in the NIHR BRC for Mental Health at KCL. Gerome was co-senior author on the anorexia GWAS paper and serves as the co-chair of the Eating Disorders Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC-ED). With his team, he guided the analysis of the 33 data sets that comprised the sample. His impressions of the impact of the study can be heard here.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD That’s me! I was the lead Principal Investigator of ANGI and am the founder and Co-chair of the PGC-ED. I will be sharing my video in another post in which I sum up some of the important questions that people asked as this research was rolled out this week and how the response from families, partners, and people who have lived with this illness (and other eating disorders!) will fuel the next stages of our work, the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI), which we hope to be launching in the near future. You can read more and even give a gift to that research effort here.