Mike Conneally: A world leader in human genetics

We are deeply saddened to say goodbye to our mentor, longtime colleague and beloved friend P. Michael Conneally (Mike), who died on February 17, 2017 at the age of 85.

Mike was a Professor of Genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine who played a crucial role in almost every aspect of Huntington's disease research starting in the late 1960s. He was one of the investigators who helped make the breakthrough discovery of the genetic marker for Huntington's in 1983. He also participated in the landmark collaborative group that mapped the actual HD gene in 1993. But there was much more.

As a geneticist, Mike early on appreciated the importance of linkage for mapping genes and spent years using traditional genetic markers in an effort to find linkage with the HD gene. When the new DNA markers became available in the late 1970s, he immediately understood their value. He encouraged the HDF to support the search for the gene using these markers at a time when many scientists thought this was premature. He also understood the value of large families for mapping genes. In the 1970s he had begun collecting samples and building pedigrees of HD families in the American midwest. These became the basis of the Huntington's Disease Research Roster at Indiana University which Mike helped establish and which the Hereditary Disease Foundation continues to support. The Roster remains an invaluable resource for investigators.

Mike served on the historic Congressional Commission on Huntington's Disease in the 1970s as a member of the Venezuela Working Group. After Nancy Wexler started the annual research trips to Venezuela in 1981, Mike came along on many of these expeditions, helping with the pedigree of families and entertaining the kids. He also served for many years on the Scientific Advisory Board of the HDF, enlivening many Foundation parties with his wonderful Irish sense of humor, his generosity and his love of life. Mike's legacy lives on in the many generations of students he trained. But the inimitable Mike Conneally in person will be deeply missed.

Click to read his obituary from the Irish Times.