Jeremy Willsey is an assistant professor in the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Willsey is a co-director of the Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative at UCSF. He is also a principal investigator and member of the executive steering committee of the Tourette International Collaborative Genetics Study (TIC Genetics), as well as a principal investigator and member of PsychENCODE.
Willsey’s research aims to elucidate the biology underlying neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., autism, Tourette disorder, multiple systems atrophy), with the goal of a precise and clinically actionable understanding. To accomplish this, his group focuses on two areas. First, gene discovery, as genes are the puzzle pieces needed to advance our understanding. Second, systems biology approaches that assemble these puzzle pieces into testable hypotheses about the pathogenesis of these disorders. For example, his early work integrating autism genetics with a map of gene expression from the developing human brain identified a strong nexus of risk in the deep-layer excitatory neurons of the developing midfetal prefrontal cortex (Willsey et al., Cell, 2013).
Willsey obtained a B.S. in molecular biology and biochemistry in 2010 from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, where he received the Dean’s Medal for Undergraduate Studies in the faculty of science. He next received a Ph.D. in genetics in 2014 from Yale University School of Medicine, securing a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Carolyn Slayman Prize in Genetics. He completed postdoctoral training at UCSF, receiving a postdoctoral fellowship from the CIHR as the top-ranked applicant. Willsey started his lab at UCSF in 2016.