430 Clinical Research Building | 415 Curie Blvd. | University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia PA 19104-6145

Clara C. Elbers, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Genetics
School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
422 Clinical Research Building
415 Curie Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6145


Research Interests


Academic Positions

Grants and Scholarships



Research interest

Modern humans originated in Africa and then spread across the rest of the globe within the past ~100,000 years. The African continent still contains the highest amount of genetic, phenotypic, cultural and linguistic diversity in the world; however, Africans have been under-represented in human genetics studies. It is likely that different African populations have experienced adaptation to local environments and diets and therefore carry population or region-specific genetic variation. My project aims to study the genetic basis of adaptation to diet in Africa, as diet is an important driver of selection. We will use an evolutionary biology approach to ultimately connect the role of genotype, phenotype and environment on traits that play a role in adaptation to diet.



Human Genetics and Epidemiology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 2010
Title of thesis: On the origin of obesity and type 2 diabetes

Supervisors: Prof. Cisca Wijmenga (Professor of Human Genetics and head of the Genetics Department at Groningen University) and Prof. Yvonne van der Schouw (Professor of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, University Medical Centre Utrecht)                                      


Biology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 2005
Main subjects: Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics

Academic Positions

Post-Doctoral Fellow (July 2010 - present)
Department of Genetics, University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine
Research under the direction of Dr. Sarah Tishkoff

Graduate Researcher and Doctoral Candidate (2006-2010)
Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Doctoral thesis and other research under the direction of Prof. Cisca Wijmenga and Prof. Yvonne van der Schouw.

Grants and Scholarships

Rubicon fellowship from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Project title: How diet shaped the human genome in Africa

Simonsfonds, Conference Fund ‘American Society of Human Genetics’, Honolulu

IOP Genomics Grant, Conference Fund ‘Approaches to Complex Pathways in Molecular Epidemiology’, Albuquerque

List of publications


Vossen CY, Elbers CC, Hasstedt SJ, Koeleman BPC, Rosendaal FR, Bovill EG. (2010) Computational candidate gene prioritization programs for identifying genetic risk factors for venous thrombosis. J Thromb Haemost. 2010 Aug; 8(8):1869-1871.

Elbers CC§, Zhernakova A§, Ferwerda B, Romanos J, Trynka G, Dubois PC, de  Kovel CGF, Oosting M, Barisani D, Bardella MT, Finnish Celiac Disease Study Group, Joosten LAB, Saavalainen P, van Heel DA, Catassi C, Netea MG, Wijmenga C. (2010) Evolutionary and functional analysis of celiac risk loci reveals SH2B3 as a selective force against bacterial infection. Am J Hum Genet. 2010 Jun 11; 86(6):970-977. §equal contribution

Bauer F, Onland-Moret NC, Niehoff AG, Elbers CC, Grobbee DE, Wijmenga C, van der Schouw YT (2010) PTPN1 polymorphisms are associated with total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2010 Feb; 17(1):28-34.


Ferwerda B, Ferwerda G, Plantinga TS, Willment JA, van Spriel AB, Venselaar H, Elbers CC, Johnson MD, Cambi A, Huysamen C, Jacobs L, Jansen T, Verheijen K, Masthoff L, Morré SA, Vriend G, Williams DL, Perfect JR, Joosten LA, Wijmenga C, van der Meer JW, Adema GJ, Kullberg BJ, Brown GD, Netea MG (2009) Human dectin-1 deficiency and mucocutaneous fungal infections. N Engl J Med. 2009 Oct 29; 361(18):1760-1767.

Bauer F, Elbers CC, Adan R, Loos RJF, Onland-Moret NC, Grobbee DE, van Vliet-Ostaptchouk JV, Wijmenga C,  van der Schouw YT (200) GWAS identified obesity genes are associated with adiposity measures and potentially with nutrient-specific food preference. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Oct; 90(4):951-959.

Elbers CC, de Kovel CGF, van der Schouw YT, Meijboom JR, Bauer F, Grobbee DE, van Vliet-Ostaptchouk JV, Wijmenga C, Onland-Moret NC (2009) Variants in neuropeptide Y receptor 1 and 5 are associated with nutrient-specific food intake and are under recent selection in Europeans. PLoS ONE. 2009 Sep 17; 4(9):e7070.

Elbers CC, van der Schouw YT, Wijmenga C, Onland-Moret NC. Comment on: Perry et al. (2009) Interrogating type 2 diabetes genome-wide association data using a biological pathway-based approach. Diabetes 2009 Sep; 58(9):e9

Elbers CC, van Eijk KR, Franke L, Mulder F, van der Schouw YT, Wijmenga C, Onland-Moret NC (2009) Using genome-wide pathway analysis to unravel the etiology of complex diseases. Genet Epidemiol. 2009 Jul; 33(5):419-431.

Elbers CC, Wolfs MGM, van Haeften TW (2009) Gene variants for obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus: Shared aetiology? European Endocrinology 2009; 5(1):27-30.

Helder S, Jansen-Vreeken C, Elbers CC, Adan R. Genetisch onderzoek naar obesitas wijst op rol hersenen. Ned Tijdschr voor Voeding & Dietiek. 2009; 64(2).


Bauer F, Onland-Moret NC, Niehoff AG, Elbers CC, Grobbee DE, Wijmenga C, van der Schouw YT (2008) No association of PTPN1 polymorphisms with macronutrient intake and measures of adiposity. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008 Dec; 16(5):2767-2771.

Van Vliet-Ostaptchouk JV, Onland-Moret NC, van Haeften TW, Franke L, Elbers CC, Shiri-Sverdlov R, van der Schouw YT, Hofker MH, Wijmenga C. (2008) HHEX gene polymorphisms are associated with type 2 diabetes in the Dutch Breda cohort. Eur J Hum Genet. 2008 May;16(5):652-656.


Niehoff AG, van Haeften TW, Onland-Moret NC, Elbers CC, Wijmenga C, van der Schouw YT (2007) C-reactive protein is independently associated with glucose but not with insulin resistance in healthy men. Diabetes Care 2007 Jun; 30(6):1627-1629.

Elbers CC, Onland-Moret NC, Franke L, Niehoff AG, van der Schouw YT, Wijmenga C. A strategy to search for common obesity and type 2 diabetes genes. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan-Feb; 18(1):19-26.

Presentations given


Selected speaker, Masterclass Svante Pääbo, Amsterdam, NL
"Evolutionary analyses concerning obesity and type 2 diabetes"

Invited speaker, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Darwin Meeting for Young Scientists, Amsterdam, NL
"Experimentally testing the thrifty gene hypothesis"


Oral presentation, WEON meeting ‘Genes and environment’, Groningen, NL
"Using genome-wide pathway analysis to unravel the etiology of complex"


Poster presentation, Genomics of Common Diseases, Cambridge, UK
"Association of neuropeptide Y receptor 1 and 5 variants with T2D and obesity"

Oral presentation, Anglo Danish Dutch Diabetes Group meeting, Helsingor, Denmark
"A strategy to search for common obesity and type 2 diabetes genes"