A former Hillsboro native, Dr. Nancy J. Cox, was honored this spring as the first recipient of the Richard M. Caprioli Research Award. Dr. Cox currently serves as the director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute in Nashville, TN.
The daughter of the late Gene and Helen Cox, she graduated from Hillsboro High School in 1974 and was selected as the second Hillsboro Education Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2002.
Dr. Cox earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Notre Dame in 1978, followed by her doctorate in human genetics from Yale University in 1982. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in genetic epidemiology at Washington University and was a research associate in human genetics at the University of Pennsylvania.
She was hired at the University of Chicago in 1987. She was granted tenure as a professor in the departments of medicine and human genetics in 2004 and chief of the section of genetic medicine the following year.
In 2012, she was named a University of Chicago Pritzker Scholar. In 2015, Dr. Cox was hired at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine as the Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor of Genetics, founding director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and director of the Division of Genetic Medicine in the Department of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Throughout her career as a quantitative geneticist, Dr. Cox has sought to identify and characterize the genetic component to common human diseases and clinical phenotypes like pharmacogenomics traits (how genes affect drug response).
Her work has advanced methods for analyzing genetic and genomic data from a wide range of complex traits and diseases, including breast cancer, diabetes, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stuttering and speech and language impairment.
Through the national Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) project, Dr. Cox also contributed to the development of genome predictors of the expression of genes, and she also has investigated the genetics of cardiometabolic phenotypes such as lipids, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
With colleagues at the University of Michigan, Dr. Cox is generating content for the Accelerating Medicine Partnership between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, biopharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations. The goal of the partnership is to identify and validate promising biological targets, increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients, and reduce the cost and time it takes to develop them.
Dr. Cox is co-principal investigator of an analytic center within the Centers for Common Disease Genomics, another NIH initiative that is using genome sequencing to explore the genomic contributions to common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and autism. A major resource for the Cox lab is Vanderbilt’s massive biobank, BioVU, which contains DNA samples from more than 230,000 individuals that are linked to de-identified electronic health records.
Dr. Cox is the author or co-author of more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles. She is former editor-in-chief of the journal Genetic Epidemiology, and is the current president of the American Society of Human Genetics.
For developing new methods that have aided researchers worldwide in identifying and characterizing of the genetic and genomic underpinnings of diseases and complex traits, Dr. Cox is the first recipient of the inaugural Richard M. Caprioli Research Award.
Dr. Cox and her husband, Dr. Paul Epstein live in Nashville, TN, and have two grown daughters, Bonnie Epstein and Carrie Epstein.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.