Our research sits at the intersection of gene regulation, human evolution and population genetics. We are particularly interested in the role gene regulatory processes have played throughout human evolution and continue to play in giving rise to present-day human diversity, and the implications this has for the widespread adoption of personalised medicine. Because gene regulation is not easily predicted (at least for now!) from sequence-level data, we use multiple a combination of computational biology and functional genomics approaches to understand the means by which cellular mechanisms interact to regulate gene expression, and, under the action of natural selection, ultimately give rise to inter-species or population-level differences. Our work directly speaks to, and seeks to remedy, the lack of diversity and representation in human genomics today.

Currently, one of our main focuses is understanding the challenges of people in Southeast Asia, with a particular interest on the Indonesian archipelago and the interactions between Homo sapiens and other, now extinct, regional hominins, such as the Denisovans.

Ongoing research in the group makes use of multiple cutting-edge approaches, including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), massively parallel reporter assays (MPRAs), functional genomics assays at bulk and single cell resolutions and machine learning, bringing together multiple disciplines to address questions that cannot be tackled independently by any single one of them. We are also one of the few groups worldwide with an established record in generating iPSC lines from non-model organisms such as great apes.

Current research projects

  • Immune cell atlas of environmental and ancestral diversity in Indonesia
    Comparative human functional genomics of Island Southeast Asia
    Determinants of eQTL portability across populations
    Unravelling the contributions of Denisovan DNA in individuals of Papuan ancestry


Irene Gallego Romero

Head, Human Genomics & Evolution

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[email protected]

Available for Student Supervision

Muhamad Fachrul

Postdoctoral Researcher, Human Genomics & Evolution

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Isabela Alvim

Postdoctoral Researcher, Human Genomics & Evolution

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  • Lani Li, Research Assistant
  • Maddy Comerford, PhD student
  • Neke Ibeh, PhD student
  • Navya Shukla, PhD student
  • Alex Wang, MSc student

Lab alumni

  • Hanadi Hoblos, lab manager
  • Laura Cook, PhD student (now a postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, USA)
  • Ashlee Hutchinson, PhD student (now a postdoc at Monash University)
  • Davide Vespasiani, PhD student (now a postdoc at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)
  • Katalina Bobowik, PhD student (now a postdoc at the Center for Population Genetics, MCRI)
  • Isobel Beasley, MSc student
  • River Kano, MSc student

Selected publications

H. M. Natri, G. Hudjashov, G. S. Jacobs, P. Kusuma, L. Saag, C. C. Darusallam, M. Metspalu, H. Sudoyo, M. P. Cox*, I. Gallego Romero* and N. E. Banovich*, Genetic architecture of gene regulation in Indonesian populations identifies QTLs associated with local ancestry and archaic introgression. (2022) American Journal of Human Genetics. 109(1):50-65, doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.11.017.* denotes equal contribution

Vespasiani, G.S. Jacobs, L.E. Cook, N. Brucato, M. Leavesley, C. Kinipi, F.X. Ricaut, M.P. Cox and I. Gallego Romero, Denisovan introgression has shaped the immune system of present-day Papuans. (2022) PLOS Genetics, 18(12):e1010470.

H. Natri*, K. S. Bobowik*, P. Kusuma, C. C. Darusallam, G. S. Jacobs, G. Hudjashov, J.S. Lansing, H. Sudoyo, N.E. Banovich**, M.P. Cox**, I. Gallego Romero**. Genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression patterns reflect genetic ancestry and environmental differences across the Indonesian archipelago. (2021) PLOS Genetics, 16(5): e1008749. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008749. * and ** denote equal contributions.

I. Gallego Romero and A.J. Lea, Leveraging massively parallel reporter assays for evolu- tionary questions. Genome Biology, 24(1), doi: 10.1186/s13059-023-02856-6

I. Gallego Romero. Seeing humans through an evolutionary lens. Science, 10.1126/science.adh0745

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1613-8998