Prof Julie Williams
Based at the Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine
Genetics, Alzheimer’s disease, developmental dyslexia
Research Interests and Facilities
Julie Williams’ research has focused on identifying genes which contribute to the development of several common disorders, including schizophrenia, developmental dyslexia (DD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). She joined the McGuffin/Owen group in 1991 working on the genetics of schizophrenia.and published several early genetic associations (Williams J, et al 1998 Molecular Psychiatry, 3(2):141-149. Williams J, et al 1997 Lancet, 349(9060):1221). She went on the develop a genetics group focusing on developmental dyslexia which published significant evidence that variation at the KIAA0319 gene increases susceptibility to DD (Cope N et al, American Journal of Human Genetics 76(4):581-591), which was highlighted by the Journal Science as one of the major discoveries of 2005.
Julie Williams has become a senior figure in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research. Her publication in 2009 (Harold et al., Nature Genet) of the first new susceptibility genes for 17 years defined a pivotal moment in Alzheimer’s genetics research. Since, the consortium she leads GERAD (Genetic and Environmental Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease) have continued the momentum and have played a leading role in the discovery of 8 of the 9, new susceptibility loci now identified (Hollingworth et al, 2011, Nat. Genet.). Early in her career she recognized the complexity of AD genetics and began focusing her research on developing larger, more powerful studies. Accordingly, JW changed her strategy to focus on collecting case-control samples, well before others in the field. This put her group in a strong position when technological development made large scale, genome-wide studies feasible. Recognizing that single research groups could not succeed in isolation, she formed major collaborations on genetic association, across countries, which went on to discover new susceptibility genes. Her work has since received extensive support in the literature with findings replicated in numerous samples. This work was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the top ten medical breakthroughs of 2009. Over the last two years JW has become one of the four leaders of the IGAP genetics consortium, the largest in the field of AD genetics. Her research has encompassed GWAS, sequencing, large exome chip association studies (access to samples of 9,000 AD cases and 19,000 controls) as well as addressing more complex phenotypic analyses (e.g., AD and psychosis, depression, rate of decline), cross disease analyses (e.g., AD and Parkinson’s disease, ALS, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) and complex statistical analyses (e.g., gene-wide/burden, CNV, pathway analyses). What is striking about her group’s findings is that the genes identified show patterns of relationship, which implicate potential disease pathways, which include immunity, endocytosis and transport and lipid processing (Jones et al, 2010, Plos One).
JW has served on the MRC Neuroscience and Mental Health Board and the Scientific Advisory Board of Alzheimer’s Research UK. She has also shown leadership at a National strategic level. In 2008 she became Chief Scientific Advisor to Alzheimer’s Research UK and has used this position to broaden the funding options available to scientists, increase research capacity and training in the area and has actively campaigned to keep the importance of dementia research on the National agenda. She has also advised UK and Welsh Governments on dementia policy. She is Deputy Dean of Research for the School of Medicine, Cardiff University and recently her contribution to Alzheimer’s disease research was recognized nationally when she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in the Queens Jubilee Birthday Honours list 2012.
- N Cope, D Harold, G Hill, V Moskvina, J Stevenson, P Holmans, M Owen, M O’Donovan, J Williams (2005) Strong evidence that KIAA0319 on chromosome 6p is a susceptibility gene for developmental dyslexia American Journal of Human Genetics 76(4):581-591
- Harold D, Abraham R, Hollingworth P, Sims R, Gerrish A, Hamshere ML, Pahwa JS, Moskvina V, Dowzell K, Williams A, Jones N, Thomas C, Stretton A, Morgan AR, Lovestone S, Powell J, Proitsi P, Lupton MK, Brayne C, Rubinsztein DC, Gill M, Lawlor B, Lynch A, Morgan K, Brown KS, Passmore PA, Craig D, McGuinness B, Todd S, Holmes C, Mann D, Smith AD, Love S, Kehoe PG, Hardy J, Mead S, Fox N, Rossor M, Collinge J, Maier W, Jessen F, Schürmann B, van den Bussche H, Heuser I, Kornhuber J, Wiltfang J, Dichgans M, Frölich L, Hampel H, Hüll M, Rujescu D, Goate AM, Kauwe JS, Cruchaga C, Nowotny P, Morris JC, Mayo K, Sleegers K, Bettens K, Engelborghs S, De Deyn PP, Van Broeckhoven C, Livingston G, Bass NJ, Gurling H, McQuillin A, Gwilliam R, Deloukas P, Al-Chalabi A, Shaw CE, Tsolaki M, Singleton AB, Guerreiro R, Mühleisen TW, Nöthen MM, Moebus S, Jöckel KH, Klopp N, Wichmann HE, Carrasquillo MM, Pankratz VS, Younkin SG, Holmans PA, O'Donovan M, Owen MJ, Williams J. (2009) Genome-wide association study identifies variants at CLU and PICALM associated with Alzheimer's disease. Nat Genet. 2009 Oct;41(10):1088-93.
- Paul Hollingworth, Denise Harold, Rebecca Sims, Amy Gerrish, Jean-Charles Lambert, Minerva M Carrasquillo, Richard Abraham, Marian L Hamshere, Jaspreet Singh Pahwa, Valentina Moskvina, Kimberley Dowzell, Nicola Jones, Alexandra Stretton, Charlene Thomas, Alex Richards, Dobril Ivanov, Caroline Widdowson, Jade Chapman, Simon Lovestone, John Powell, Petroula Proitsi, Michelle K Lupton, Carol Brayne, David C Rubinsztein, Michael Gill, Brian Lawlor, Aoibhinn Lynch, Kristelle S Brown, Peter A Passmore, David Craig, Bernadette McGuinness, Stephen Todd, Clive Holmes, David Mann, A David Smith, Helen Beaumont, Donald Warden, Gordon Wilcock, Seth Love, Patrick G Kehoe, Nigel M Hooper, Emma R. L. C. Vardy, John Hardy, Simon Mead, Nick C Fox, Martin Rossor, John Collinge, Wolfgang Maier, Frank Jessen, Britta Schürmann, Eckart Rüther, Reiner Heun, Heike Kölsch, Hendrik van den Bussche, Isabella Heuser, Johannes Kornhuber, Jens Wiltfang, Martin Dichgans, Lutz Frölich, Harald Hampel, Michael Hüll, John Gallacher, Dan Rujescu, Ina Giegling, Alison M Goate, John S K Kauwe, Carlos Cruchaga, Petra Nowotny, John C Morris, Kevin Mayo, Kristel Sleegers, Karolien Bettens, Sebastiaan Engelborghs, Peter P De Deyn, Christine Van Broeckhoven, Gill Livingston, Nicholas J Bass, Hugh Gurling, Andrew McQuillin, Rhian Gwilliam, Panagiotis Deloukas, Ammar Al-Chalabi, Christopher E Shaw, Magda Tsolaki, Andrew B Singleton, Rita Guerreiro, Thomas W Mühleisen, Markus M Nöthen, Susanne Moebus, Karl-Heinz Jöckel, Norman Klopp, H-Erich Wichmann, V Shane Pankratz, Sigrid B Sando, Jan O Aasly, Maria Barcikowska, Zbigniew K Wszolek, Dennis W Dickson, Neill R Graff-Radford, Ronald C Petersen, the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, Cornelia M van Duijn, Monique MB Breteler, M Arfan Ikram, Anita L DeStefano, Annette L Fitzpatrick, Oscar Lopez, Lenore J Launer, Sudha Seshadri, CHARGE consortium, Claudine Berr, Dominique Campion, Jacques Epelbaum, Jean-François Dartigues, Christophe Tzourio, Annick Alpérovitch, Mark Lathrop, EADI1 consortium, Thomas M Feulner, Patricia Friedrich, Caterina Riehle, Michael Krawczak, Stefan Schreiber, Manuel Mayhaus, S Nicolhaus, Stefan Wagenpfeil Stacy Steinberg, Hreinn Stefansson, Kari Stefansson, Jon Snædal, Sigurbjörn Björnsson, Palmi V. Jonsson, Vincent Chouraki, Benjamin Genier-Boley, Mikko Hiltunen, Hilkka Soininen, Onofre Combarros, Diana Zelenika, Marc Delepine, Maria J Bullido, Florence Pasquier, Ignacio Mateo, Ana Frank-Garcia, Elisa Porcellini, Olivier Hanon, Eliecer Coto, Victoria Alvarez, Paolo Bosco, Gabriele Siciliano, Michelangelo Mancuso, Francesco Panza, Vincenzo Solfrizzi, Benedetta Nacmias, Sandro Sorbi, Paola Bossù, Paola Piccardi, Beatrice Arosio, Giorgio Annoni, Davide Seripa, Alberto Pilotto, Elio Scarpini, Daniela Galimberti, Alexis Brice, Didier Hannequin, Federico Licastro, Lesley Jones, Peter A Holmans, Thorlakur Jonsson, Matthias Riemenschneider, Kevin Morgan, Steven G Younkin, Michael J Owen, Michael O’Donovan, Philippe Amouyel, Julie Williams (2011) Common variants in ABCA7, MS4A4/MS4A6E, EPHA1, CD33 and CD2AP are associated with Alzheimer's disease Nat Genet 43(5):429-435
- Paul Hollingworth, Robert Sweet, Rebecca Sims, Denise Harold, Giancarlo Russo, Richard Abraham, Alexandra Stretton, Nicola Jones, Amy Gerrish, Jade Chapman, Dobril Ivanov, Valentina Moskvina, Simon Lovestone, Petroula Priotsi, Michelle Lupton, Carol Brayne, Michael Gill, Brian Lawlor, Aoibhinn Lynch, David Craig, Bernadette McGuinness, Janet Johnston, Clive Holmes, Gill Livingston, Nicholas J. Bass, Hugh Gurling, Andrew McQuillin, GERAD Consortium, the National Institute on Aging Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Family Study Group1 Peter Holmans, Lesley Jones, Bernie Devlin, Lambertus Klei, M. Michael Barmada, F. Yesim Demirci, Steven T. DeKosky, Oscar L. Lopez, Peter Passmore, Michael J Owen, Michael C O’Donovan, Richard Mayeux, M. Ilyas Kamboh, Julie Williams (2011) Genome-wide Association Study of Alzheimer’s disease with Psychotic Symptoms. Molecular Psychiatry doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.125. [Epub ahead of print]