BBC interviews Gokcumen on Neolithic transition

The Neolithic ushered in dramatic changes: civilisations with large populations, advancements in technology, arts and trade. But with the advent of agriculture, humans also began to experience malnutrition, starvation and epidemic diseases. The BBC explores the question "Was this humanity's biggest mistake?" in a short video program that includes an interview with Omer Gokcumen. See BBC REEL.

Omer Gokumen.

Omer Gokcumen

Omer Gokcumen


Omer Gokcumen.

Omer Gokcumen


Omer Gokcumen


Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award, 2019

Research Interests

Human and primate evolution, ancient humans (including Neanderthals and Denisovans), anthropological genomics


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania
  • Postdoctoral Research, Harvard Medical School

Research Statement

Omer Gokcumen is an expert in evolutionary anthropology — the study of how humans evolved and how they differ from non-human primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees. His work is tied to human evolution, including evolutionary adaptation and the evolutionary processes that lead to genetic disease.

Gokcumen’s research examines the role that genomic variants, especially deletions and duplications, play in human disease and biology. His laboratory investigates the evolutionary history of genetic variations tied to interesting traits and diseases in modern and ancient human populations.

Selected Publications

  • Veilleux, C.C., Garrett, E.C., Pajic, P.*, Saitou, M.*, Ochieng, J., Dagsaan, L.D., Dominy, N.J., Perry, G.H., Gokcumen, O.*,  Melin, A.D. (2023). Veillex Human subsistence and signatures of selection on chemosensory genes. Communications Biology. 6: 683. [co-Corresponding Author].
  • Lu, D., Parisi, L.R., Gokcumen, O.*, Attila-Gokcumen, E.A. SREBP activation contributes to fatty acid accumulations in necroptosis. (2023). RSC Chem Biol. 4: 310–322.
  • Aqil, A*, Gill, S., Gokcumen, O.*, Malhi, R.S., Reese, E.A., Smith J.L., Heaton, T.T., Lindqvist, C. A paleogenome from a Holocene individual supports genetic continuity in Southeast Alaska (2023). iScience. 26, 106581
  • Sun, Y.H., Cui, H., Song, Chi., Shen, J.T., Zhuo, X., Wang, R.H., Yu, X., Ndamba, R., Mu, Q., Gu, H., Wang, D., Murthy, G.G., Li, P., Liang, F., Liu, L., Tao, Q., Wang, Y., Orlowski, S., Xu, Q., Zhou, H., Jagne, J., Gokcumen, O.*, Anthony, N., Zhao, X., Li, X.Z.. Amniotes co-opt intrinsic genetic instability to protect germ-line genome integrity. (2023). Nature Communications. 14:812. 
  • Dos Santos, A.L.C.*, Sullasi, H.S.L., Gokcumen, O.*, Lindo, J., DeGiorgio, M. Spatiotemporal fluctuations of population structure in the Americas revealed by a meta-analysis of the first decade of archaeogenomes (2022). American Journal of Biological Anthropology. 180: 703-714.
  • A Aqil, L Speidel, P Pavlidis, O Gokcumen (2023) Balancing selection on genomic deletion polymorphisms in human. Elife. 12, e79111.
  • Nikkanen, J., Leong, W.A., Krause, W.C., Dermadi, D., Maschek, J.A., Van Ry, T., Cox, J.E., Weiss, E.J., Gokcumen, O.*, Chawla, A., Ingraham, H.A. (2022). Trade-Offs Between Hepatic Host Defense and Metabolic Programs Underlie Sex-Biased Diseases. Science. 378: 290-295.
  • Dos Santos, A.L.C., Owings, A., Sullasi, H.S.L., Gokcumen, O.*, DeGiorgio, M., Lindo, J. Genomic evidence of ancient migrations along South America's Atlantic coast. (2022). Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 289: 20221078.
  • Pajic, P.*, Shen, S., Qu, J., May, A.J., Knox, S., Ruhl, S., Gokcumen, O.* (2022) A mechanism of gene evolution generating mucin function. Science Advances. 8: 34. [Corresponding author].
  • Saitou, M.*, Masuda, N., Gokcumen, O.* (2022). Similarity-based analysis of allele frequency distribution among multiple populations identifies adaptive genomic structural variants. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 39: msab313. [Corresponding Author]. 
  • Saitou, M.*, Resendez, S.*, Pradhan, A.J., Wu, F., Lie, N.C., Hall, N.J., Zhu, Q.,  Reinholdt, L. Satta, Y., Speidel, L., Nakagome, S., Hanchard, N. A., Churchill, G., Lee, C., Atilla-Gokcumen,  G. E., Mu, X., Gokcumen, O.* (2021). Sex-specific phenotypic effects and evolutionary history of an ancient polymorphic deletion of the human growth hormone receptor. Sci Adv. 7, eabi4476. [Corresponding Author].
  • Starr, I.*, Seiffert-Sinha, K, Sinha, A.A., Gokcumen, O.* (2021). Evolutionary Context of Psoriatic Immune Skin Response. Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. 9: 474-486 [Corresponding Author].  
  • Pliss, A., Kuzmin, A.N., Lita, A., Kumar, R., Celiku, O., Atilla-Gokcumen G.E., Gokcumen, O.*, Chandra, D., Larion, M., Prasad, P.N. (2021). Single Organelle Optical Omics Platform for Cell Science and Biomarker Discovery. Analytical Chemistry. 93:8281.
  • Pradhani et al. (2021). Protein acylation by saturated very long chain fatty acids and endocytosis are involved in necroptosis. Cell Chemical Biology. (In Press)
  • Xu, D., Gokcumen, O*., Khurana, E. (2020). Loss-of-function tolerance of enhancers in the human genome. PLoS Genetics. 6:e1008663.
  • Eaaswarkhanth, E., dos Santos, A.L.*, Gokcumen, O.*, Al-Mulla, F., Thanaraj, T.A. (2020). Genome-Wide Selection Scan in an Arabian Peninsula Population Identifies a TNKS Haplotype Linked to Metabolic Traits and Hypertension. Genome Biology and Evolution, 12:  77–87 [Highlighted in Human Genetics].
  • Gokcumen, O. (2020) Archaic hominin introgression into modern human genomes. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. 171: 60.
  • Saitou, M.* & Gokcumen, O. (2020). An Evolutionary Perspective on the Impact of Genomic Copy Number Variation on Human Health. Journal of Molecular Evolution. 88: 104.
  • Thamadilok, S., Choi, K.-S., Ruhl, L., Schulte, F., Kazim, A. L., Hardt, M., Gokcumen, O*., Ruhl, S. (2020).Human and Non-Human Primate Lineage-Specific Footprints in the Salivary Proteome. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 37:39-405.
  • O Gokcumen, M Frachetti. The Impact of Ancient Genome Studies in Archaeology.  Annual Review of Anthropology. (2020) 49:277–98
  • Saitou, M*., Gaylord, E., Xu, D.,Neznanova, L., Nathan, S., Grawe, A., Chang, J., Ryan, William., Ruhl, S., Knox, S.M., and Gokcumen, O*.  (2020). Functional Specialization of Human Salivary Glands and Origins of Proteins Intrinsic to Human Saliva. Cell Reports. 33, 108402. [Corresponding Author].
  • Ozgur Taskent, Yen Lung Lin, Ioannis Patramanis, Pavlos Pavlidis and Omer Gokcumen, 2020. Analysis of Haplotypic Variation and Deletion Polymorphisms Point to Multiple Archaic Introgression Events, Including from Altai Neanderthal Lineage.

Research News

  • 2022 Interview for BBC 4 - Inside Science on our work on evolution of mucus. (here)
  • 2022 Interviewed for NPR - RadioLab. “Neanderthals’ revenge” episode on our work on ancient alleles in the human genome. (here)
  • 2021 Interviewed for Scientific American on our work on the evolution of human growth hormone receptor. (here)
  • 2021 Interviewed for The Scientist on our work on the evolution of human growth hormone receptor. (here)
  • 2021 Quoted in How Stuff Works - “How human are humans?” by Joanna Thompson. (here)
  • 2020 BBC - Reel
  • 2019 Quoted in NYTimes.

UB News Highlights

  • 2022 Pajic et al. A mechanism of gene evolution generating mucin function. Press release. Selected highlights: New Scientist, Yahoo News, BBC, GEN, Inverse.
  • 2021 Saitou et al. Sex-specific phenotypic effects and evolutionary history of an ancient polymorphic deletion of the human growth hormone receptor. Press release.  Selected highlights: Real Clear Science, The Scientist, Scientific American.
  • 2020 Saiotu et al. Functional Specialization of Human Salivary Glands and Origins of Proteins Intrinsic to Human Saliva. Press release.  Selected Highlights: Cosmos, CBC- Radio Active.
  • 2020 Taskent et al.  Analysis of haplotypic variation and deletion polymorphisms point to multiple archaic introgression events, including from Altai Neanderthal lineage. Press release.   Selected Highlights: Futurity, Sputnik, Genetic Literacy Project.