Speaker Biographies

 
 

Plenary Lecture
Eric Wieschaus –
Princeton University, HHMI, New Jersey, USA
Mechanical Tension and Epithelial Mesenchymal Transitions in Drosophila

In the late 1970s, Eric Wieschaus and Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard carried out large-scale mutagenesis screens to identify genes controlling embryonic development in Drosophila. In contrast to previous genetic analyses, these screens were designed for genomic saturation, i. e.; identifying key components in all pathways governing morphology, patterning and differentiation. These experiments established a basic “tool box” of genes and signaling pathways that operate in the Drosophila embryo and are conserved with remarkable fidelity in all multicellular organisms including humans. Wieschaus and collaborators went on to elucidate basic features of the Wnt pathway. More recent work focuses on the mechanics of cell shape change and movement during gastrulation and on biophysical measurements of gradients and transcriptional activation during early development. Wieschaus is a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University and a Howard Hughes Investigator.


Plenary Lecture
Maria Leptin – EMBO, Heidelberg, Germany

Morphogenesis: from whole organism integration to biophysical principles

Maria Leptin received her PhD in 1983 for work on B cell activation carried out at the Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland, under the supervision of Fritz Melchers. She switched to the study of development in Drosophila when she joined the laboratory of Michael Wilcox at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, UK, for her postdoctoral work on Drosophila integrins. After a research visit at the laboratory of Pat O’Farrell at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she began her work on gastrulation, she spent 1989-1994 as a group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany. In 1994, she became Professor at the Institute of Genetics University of Cologne.

In January 2010, Maria Leptin was appointed Director of EMBO and established a research group in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). The group studies cell biology and biophysics of cell shape changes and the mechanisms of innate immunity.

Maria Leptin is an elected member of EMBO, the Academia Europaea, the German National Academy, Leopoldina, and an Honorary Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. She is Deputy Director of the Christiane-Nüsslein-Volhard Stiftung, member of the selection panel for the Eppendorf Award for Young European Investigators, has chaired an evaluation panel for ERC Advanced Investigator Grants, serves on the editorial boards of leading journals, on advisory boards of several academic institutions and selection panels for funding institutions.


Beddington Medal Talk
Emilia Favuzzi - Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, USA
Cell-specific programs regulate inhibitory synapse specificity

Emilia was awarded a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences in 2008 and an M.Sc. in Neurobiology in 2010 from Sapienza University of Rome, both with highest marks. In 2011, she joined the group of Beatriz Rico and started her PhD in Neuroscience at the Institute of Neuroscience in Alicante (Spain) and moved with that group to the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London in 2014 where she terminated her PhD work. This work consisted of two projects and aimed at elucidating how inhibitory circuit specificity is achieved during development and how interneurons and their networks respond to experience, with a focus on the underlying cell-specific mechanisms. Her PhD in Neuroscience was awarded in 2017 by the University Miguel Hernandez of Elche (Spain) with summa cum laude. Since 2017 she is a postdoctoral associate in Gordon Fishell’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.


Plenary Lecture
Marianne Bronner – California Institute of Technology, California, USA
Gene regulatory and signaling events in neural crest development

Marianne Bronner is a developmental biologist with a long-standing interest in specification, migration and differentiation of neural crest stem cells. Using a pan-vertebrate approach, her lab has been systematically studying the gene regulatory network responsible for neural crest formation and evolutionary origin. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Marianne’s family escaped to Austria during the Hungarian revolution when she was a small child. She received her Sc.B. in Biophysics from Brown University and then a PhD in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins University. She assumed her first faculty position at the University of California, Irvine, before moving to Caltech in 1996. Marianne received the Conklin Medal from The Society for Developmental Biology in 2013, the Women in Cell Biology Senior Award from the American Society for Cell Biology in 2012, as well as several teaching awards from her institution. She was elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2015. She is Editor-in-Chief of Developmental Biology, a Senior Editor for eLife, and serves actively as monitoring editor of Journal of Cell Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, PLoS Biology and PNAS.


The History and Future of Developmental Biology
Tim Horder – University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
The value of history: history as a resource for the future

Recently retired University Lecturer in Dept of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Oxford University. Researched on retinotectal system, limb and heart development and pattern formation. Editor of "A History of Embryology" (CUP, 1985); numerous papers of history of biology.


The History and Future of Developmental Biology
Nick Hopwood – University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Inclusion and exclusion in the history of developmental biology

Nick Hopwood trained in developmental biology in 1986–91; he worked with John Gurdon on mesoderm induction in Xenopus and was a member of the BSDB. Today Nick is Professor of History of Science and Medicine at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio (2002) and Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud (2015), which won the Suzanne J. Levinson Prize of the History of Science Society. He also co-curated the online exhibition Making Visible Embryos (www.sites.hps.cam.ac.uk/visibleembryos, 2008) and co-edited Models: The Third Dimension of Science (2004) and Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day (2018, in press).


Plenary Lecture
Matthew Freeman – University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Confessions of an ex-developmental biologist

Since January 2013, Matthew Freeman has been Head of the Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford. Until then, he was a group leader at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, where he was the Head of the Cell Biology Division. His first degree is from Oxford, his PhD from Imperial College, London, and he was a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley. His group studies the molecular mechanisms of how cells communicate with each other, focusing on fundamental cell biology, but has the goal of revealing principles relevant to many human diseases. For much of his career he has worked on Drosophila but is now increasingly focused on mammalian systems. Most recently, he has discovered new mechanisms for controlling the signalling that leads to inflammation in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. He is the winner of the EMBO Gold Medal (2001), the Hooke Medal of the British Society for Cell Biology (2003), and the Novartis Prize and Medal (2015). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences.


Tissue and Organ Development


Henrik Semb – University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
How morphogenesis directs cell fate

2011-Executive Director, Professor of Human Stem Cell Biology, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
2008-2011 Director of the Stem Cell Center, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
2004-2011 Professor of Functional Genetics, Lund University
2003-2004 Professor of Developmental Biology, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg
1998-2003 Associate Professor in Developmental Biology, Gothenburg University
1991-1997 Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Umeå
1989-1990 Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF, San Francisco, California, USA
1982-1988 PhD, Department of Medical Chemistry, Umeå University

With a career spanning over more than 20 years Henrik Semb’s multi-disciplinary approach to research has contributed to the advancement of several scientific fields. The lab has used a combination of in vivo and in vitro tools to decipher a range of cellular mechanisms, from tumor cell invasion and metastasis, to basic mechanisms in morphogenesis and differentiation during organogenesis. However, the long-lasting interest of Semb is to understand at a quantitative level the cellular processes involved in organizing cells into a fully functional organ. Furthermore, the lab has devoted a significant interest in characterizing how organ-specific precursor cells, while taking part in setting up organ architecture, receive context-specific signals that ultimately dictate their fate and function. Lately, much of the work has focused on defining how extracellular cues in a context-dependent manner coordinate these cellular events.


Fiona Watt – King’s College London, London, UK
Regulation of homeostasis in mammalian epidermis

Fiona Watt obtained her first degree from Cambridge University and her DPhil, in cell biology, from the University of Oxford. She was a postdoc at MIT, where she first began studying differentiation and tissue organisation in mammalian epidermis. She established her first research group at the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology and then spent 20 years at the CRUK London Research Institute (now part of the Francis Crick Institute). She helped to establish the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research and in 2012 she moved to King's College London to found the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. Fiona Watt is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her awards include the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Women in Cell Biology Senior Award, the Hunterian Society Medal and the FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award. In 2016 she was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. She is internationally recognised for her work on stem cells and their interactions with the niche in healthy and diseased skin.


Patrick Tam – Children's Medical Research Institute, Westmead, Australia
Mouse gastrulation: The interplay of transcription and signalling activity for germ layer formation

Professor Patrick Tam is the Deputy Director and Head of the Embryology Research Unit at the Children's Medical Research Institute, a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Professor in the School of Medical Sciences, Sydney Medical School of the University of Sydney. He also holds the Mok Hing-Yiu Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the School of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Hong Kong.

Patrick Tam's research focuses on the systems-based investigation of the functional attributes of gene regulatory network in body patterning during mouse development and the differentiation of stem cells. The embryological analysis of cell fates, together with the developmental spatial transcriptome analysis of the gastrulating embryo, revealed the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin the organization of the basic body plan of the early embryo. The in-depth knowledge of lineage differentiation during early embryogenesis guides the development of protocols for directing the first steps of differentiation of stem cells into clinically useful cell types for cellular therapy.

Patrick Tam is an Editor of the journal Development and serves on editorial board of Developmental Cell, Developmental Biology, Differentiation and Genesis. He is the chair of the scientific advisory committee of Stem Cell Australia, and member of the scientific advisory board of the School of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Hong Kong. In recognition of his professional accomplishments, he was awarded the President’s Medal of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology and elected Fellow of Australian Academy of Sciences, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Royal Society of Biology and Royal Society of London.


Klaus Kaestner – University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Subepithelial Foxl1-positive telocytes are the source of Wnts that support intestinal crypts

Klaus Kaestner’s body of work has focused on the molecular genetic basis of gut, liver, and endocrine pancreas development, and more recently on the identification of the intestinal stem cell niche.  Kaestner has combined innovative mouse genetic models with state-of-the-art functional genomic analysis to make discoveries that are at the critical intersection of developmental biology, metabolism, and cancer.  Focused on the Forkhead family of transcriptional regulators, his lab elegantly demonstrated that the Foxa factors act upstream of Pdx1 in the organogenesis of the pancreas, but continue to control essential aspects of both beta- and alpha-cell function in later development and adulthood. Most recently, Dr. Kaestner’s group that a rare cell type termed ‘telocytes’, which are marked by expression of the transcription factor Foxl1, constitute the intestinal stem cell niche, and provide critical Wnt signals to the intestinal stem cell.

Dr. Kaestner received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and postdoctoral training at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. Currently, he is professor of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he also serves as Associate Director for the Diabetes Research Center and the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Kidney Diseases.


Developmental Gene Regulatory Networks


James Briscoe – The Francis Crick Institute, London, UK
The Gene Regulatory Logic for Reading the Sonic Hedgehog Gradient In The Vertebrate Neural Tube

Senior Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute


Virginia Papaioannou – Columbia University Medical Center, New York, USA
Multiple Roles of the T-box gene, Tbx6

Dr. Virginia (Ginny) Papaioannou did an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in Genetics at the University of Cambridge. She did postdoctoral work in the Marshall Laboratory and later at Oxford University working with Richard Gardner. She became assistant professor at Tufts University Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts in 1989 and developed a research program in early embryology in the Department of Pathology, making use of gene targeting technology to produce developmental mutations. In 1993 she joined Columbia University in the City of New York as a professor in the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center where she is currently Professor, Emerita. She was the director of graduate studies for the Training Program in Genetics and Development for 23 years. Her research was continuously funded by NIH including an NIH MERIT award. She has served as an editor of several journals including Development, Differentiation, and Mechanisms of Development. Her research interests center on the T-box family of transcription factor genes and their roles in early development, embryonic stem cells, left/right asymmetry, somite formation and early organogenesis.


Ido Amit – Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
The power of ONE: Immunology in the age of single cell genomics

Born on Kibbutz Hatzor, Prof. Ido Amit earned his PhD in biological regulation at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2007. For four years, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before joining the Weizmann Institute in 2011.

Ido Amit is a Professor at the Immunology Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. His lab pioneered single cell genomic technologies and their application to characterize the immune system. Amit’s research answers some of the most fundamental questions in immunology which are being translated into innovate new targets for immunotherapy in autoimmune diseases, neurodegeneration and cancer. Prof. Amit is also known in the science community as a leader in the field of immunogenomics, aimed at detecting and engineering genome sequences that are essential for the function of the immune system in physiology and disease. Among others, Prof, Amit is a recipient of the EMBO Gold Medal award and an HHMI International Research Scholar for his work to reveal the function of the immune system.


Eileen Furlong – EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany
Functional insights into genome topology and enhancer function during embryonic development

PhD, University College Dublin.
Postdoctoral research at Stanford University.
Group leader at EMBL since September 2002.
Senior Scientist since 2009.
Joint Head of Genome Biology Unit 2009-13.
Head of Genome Biology Unit since 2013.
ERC Advanced Investigator since 2013.
Elected EMBO Member since 2013.


Mike Levine – Princeton University, Princeton, USA
Visualization of Transvection in Living Drosophila Embryos

Director, Lewis-Sigler Institute, Princeton University
Previous appointments: Columbia Univ, UCSD, UC Berkeley
Awards and Honors: member NAS, AAAS, EMBO; Mol Bio Prize (NAS), Wilbur Cross Medal (Yale Univ), Conklin Medal (SDB)


Mechanisms of Global Gene Regulation


Robb Krumlauf – Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Missouri, USA
Hox genes and the hindbrain: A story in segments

Robb Krumlauf is a developmental biologist known for demonstrating how the Hox family of transcription factors controls patterning of the hindbrain, head and body plan in development, disease and evolution. His work, along with that of Denis Duboule, discovered colinearity, of mammalian Hox homeobox gene clusters. He received a degree in chemical engineering from Vanderbilt University and a PhD in developmental biology from The Ohio State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and the Fox Chase Cancer Center. In 1985 he joined the faculty of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research as a group leader then Head of the Division of Developmental Neurobiology. In 2000 he became the founding Scientific Director of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and holds faculty appointments in the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Missouri at Kansas City Dental School and the The Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He has served as Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Developmental Biology and President of the Society for Developmental Biology.


Anne Ferguson-Smith – University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Variable silencing of the repeat genome – implications for non-genetic inheritance

Anne is a mammalian developmental geneticist and epigeneticist, and her team studies genomic imprinting in development and disease and the epigenetic control of genome function in a wider context. Her group is made up of both experimental and computational scientists and, using the mouse as a model, their current research focuses on three themes: (i) Stem cells and the epigenetic programme, (ii) Functional genomics and epigenomics, and (iii) the interaction between the environment and development, health and disease. Anne is the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics and Head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge.


Pavel Tomancak – MPI-CBG, Dresden, Germany
The Physics of Blastoderm Flow during Early Gastrulation of Tribolium castaneum

Pavel Tomancak studied Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. He then did his PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in the field of Drosophila developmental genetics. During his post-doctoral time at the University of California in Berkeley at the laboratory of Gerald M. Rubin, he established image-based genome scale resources for patterns of gene expression in Drosophila embryos. Since 2005 he leads an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden where he became senior research group leader in 2013.

His laboratory continues to study patterns of gene expression during development by combining molecular, imaging and image analysis techniques. The group has lead a significant technological development aiming towards more complete quantitative description of gene expression patterns using light sheet microscopy. The emphasis on open access resulted in establishment of major resources such as OpenSPIM (http://openspim.org) and Fiji (http://fiji.sc). The Tomancak lab is expanding the systematic analysis of gene expression patterns to other Drosophila tissues and employing the comparative approach in other Drosophilids and invertebrate species.


Edith Heard – Institut Curie, Paris, France
Developmental dynamics of X-chromosome structure

Edith Heard is a British scientist working at the Institut Curie in Paris and Professor of Epigenetics and Cellular Memory at the Collège de France. She graduated from Cambridge University in 1986, specializing in genetics, and then carried out her PhD at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, working on gene amplification mechanisms in cancer. She moved to the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1990, as a post doc and then as a CNRS scientist, which is where she began her studies on the epigenetic process of X-chromosome inactivation. After a year at Cold Spring Harbor she established her lab at the Curie Institute in 2001. Her lab uncovered the remarkable epigenetic dynamics associated with dosage compensation in early embryogenesis. They have also made important contributions to the understanding of the relationship between chromosome organisation and gene regulation during X inactivation. Heard is currently director of the Genetics and Developmental Biology Department at the Institut Curie. In 2019 she will become Director General of the EMBL. She was elected an EMBO member in 2005, Professor of Collège de France in 2012 and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013. She has won several prizes, most recently in 2017 she was awarded the Grand Prix of INSERM and the European Society of Human Genetics award.


Petra Hajkova – Imperial College London, London, UK
Reprogramming in the mouse germ line

Petra Hajkova is the head of the Reprogramming and Chromatin Laboratory at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and Professor of Developmental Epigenetics at the Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London. Her work focuses on the elucidation of molecular mechanisms implicated in the erasure of epigenetic information during epigenetic reprogramming in vivo (https://lms.mrc.ac.uk/research-group/reprogramming-and-chromatin/)

Following her Masters studies at the Charles University in Prague and PhD studies at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Petra joined the laboratory of Prof. Azim Surani in Cambridge as a postdoctoral fellow to investigate the processes of epigenetic reprogramming in vivo. In 2009 Petra established an independent laboratory at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences where she has been continuing her work on the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming using both genetic and biochemical approaches.

Petra is a member of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme and a recipient of the ERC Consolidator Grant. She has been selected as a RISE1 member of the EpigeneSys (EU FP7) network and an associated member of the EuroSyStem network. She has been recently awarded the 2017 Mary Lyon Medal by the Genetics Society UK.


Cell Biology and Development


Jordan Raff – University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Centrioles as a model to study organelle size control

Jordan Raff studied Biochemistry at Bristol University. He did his PhD with David Glover in the Department of Biochemistry at Imperial College London, where he first started to work on centrosomes and cell division in fruit flies. He has continued to work on this problem throughout his scientific career, first as a post-doctoral fellow with Bruce Alberts at the University of California, San Francisco, then as a Wellcome Trust or CRUK funded group leader at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge. He moved to Oxford in 2009 to take up the César Milstein Chair of Cancer Cell Biology. He was President of the BSCB from 2011-2017.


Mitinori Saitou – Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
Mechanism and Reconstitution In Vitro of Germ Cell Development in Mice, Monkeys, and Humans

Mitinori Saitou received his M.D. and Ph.D. (under Shoichiro Tsukita) from the Kyoto University, performed his postdoctoral work at the Gurdon Institute (with Azim Surani). He was then team leader at the RIKEN CDB. Mitinori Saitou is now Professor at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine and Director of the JST ERATO program. His work focuses on the mechanism and reconstitution in vitro of germ cell development in mice, monkeys, and humans.


Steve Wilson – University College London, London, UK
Breaking symmetry in the developing brain

Steve Wilson is Professor of Developmental Genetics and Vice-dean for Research at UCL in London. He is also Deputy Editor in Chief for the journal Development. Ever since his post-doc at the University of Michigan with Steve Easter, his research has been focused on brain development using zebrafish as a model system. He established an independent research group in 1992 and moved to UCL in 1998 as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, was appointed Professor of Developmental Genetics in 2002 and Vice-Dean for Research in 2007. In recent years, his group’s research has focused on eye formation and on the establishment and function of left-right asymmetry in the brain.


Plenary Lecture
Janet Rossant – Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada
Making the mouse blastocyst

Janet Rossant, CC, PhD, FRS, FRSC is Senior Scientist and Chief of Research Emeritus at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation. She is an internationally recognized developmental and stem cell biologist, exploring the origins of stem cells in the early embryo and their applications to understanding and treating human disease. She led the research institute at the Hospital for Sick Children from 2005 to 2015. She has received many honours and recognition for her work, including the 2018 L’Oréal/UNESCO Women in Science Award, five honorary degrees, and election to the Royal Societies of London and Canada, and the National Academy of Sciences, USA.


Plenary Lecture
Sean Carroll – HHHMI / University of Wisconsin, Chevy Chase, USA
Rattlesnake Tales

Sean B. Carroll is Vice President for Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the largest private supporter of science education activities in the US, and Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin. His laboratory’s research has centered on the genes that control animal body patterns and play major roles in the evolution of animal diversity. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Sean is the author of five books for general audiences including The Serengeti Rules, Brave Genius, The Making of the Fittest, Endless Forms Most Beautiful and Remarkable Creatures and he has served as an executive producer on more than a dozen films including The Farthest and Amazon Adventure.


Stem Cells and Regeneration


Magdalena Götz – LMU München, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
Novel regulators of neurogenesis – from centrosomes to nucleoli

Prof. Dr. Magdalena Götz is director of the Institute of Stem Cell Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and Chair of the Department of Physiological Genomics at the Medical Faculty of the LMU, München. She is an EMBO member and received the Leibniz Price of the DFG, and the Familie Hansen Price. She is a developmental biologist specialized in the analysis of molecular fate determinants both during development and in adult neurogenesis. One of her major contributions was the discovery that radial glial cells are a major source of neurons in the developing nervous system. She has extensive experience in the use of genetic mouse models as well as viral vectors to manipulate fate determinants in the developing and adult nervous system in vivo.

Her research aims to elucidate the key mechanisms of neurogenesis in the developing and adult brain. In contrast to organs such as the skin, the small intestine or the hematopoietic system, most cells in the adult mammalian nervous system are permanently postmitotic, such as the neurons and the oligodendrocytes, and are not turned over nor regenerated once they die. Neurogenesis persists only in very few regions of the adult mammalian forebrain, and neurons degenerated after acute or chronic injury, are not replaced in the adult mammalian brain. To overcome this, Prof. Magdalena Götz and her team study neurogenesis when and where it works with the aim to reactivate these mechanisms and re-instruct neurogenesis after brain injury.


Gordon Keller – University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Modeling human cardiovascular development with pluripotent stem cells

Dr. Gordon Keller earned his PhD in Immunology at the University of Alberta in 1979 and completed a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto in 1983. Following post doctoral studies, he became a Member of the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland where he worked for five years, then moved to Vienna Austria where he accepted a post of Visiting Scientist at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. In 1990, Keller moved to the United States, working initially at the National Jewish Centre for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver Colorado and from 1999-2006 as a Professor in the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In 2005, he was appointed Director of the Black Family Stem Cell Institute within the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. As of January 2007, Keller returned to Canada to accept the position of Director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network in Toronto. Dr. Keller is best known for his research in lineage specific differentiation of pluripotent stem cells. Applying this knowledge, his lab is generating human heart, blood, cartilage and liver cells for developing new therapies to treat disease.

In December 2016, Keller was named scientific co-founder of BlueRock Therapeutics, a next-generation regenerative medicine company.


Austin Smith – University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Pluripotency: plasticity and order

As an undergraduate in Oxford Austin Smith became captivated by pluripotency He pursued this interest through PhD studies in Edinburgh and postdoctoral research back in Oxford. He returned to Edinburgh as a Group Leader in 1990 and from 1996 was Director of the Centre for Genome Research, later the Institute for Stem Cell Research. In 2006 he moved to Cambridge where he was the founding Director of the Stem Cell Institute. 

Professor Smith is a Medical Research Council Professor, an EMBO Member, and a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and of London. In 2010 he was awarded the Louis Jeantet Prize and in 2016 he received the ISSCR McEwen award for Innovation.


Elly Tanaka – Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria
Triggering Limb Regeneration

Elly Tanaka received her AB at Harvard, her PhD at UCSF and post-doctoral work at University College London. She became groupleader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics Dresden then Professor at the TU Dresden and since 2016 Senior scientist at the Institute for Molecular Pathology, Vienna. She has developed molecular genetics in the axolotl to identify the stem cells for limb and spinal cord regeneration, identified molecular pathways that control progenitor cell expansion, and patterning.


Paul Tesar – Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA
Pluripotent stem cell technologies for studying myelin development and regenerative therapies

Paul Tesar was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and is a magna cum laude graduate of Case Western Reserve University. He went on to earn his PhD from the University of Oxford as a recipient of a prestigious scholarship from the National Institutes of Health. While at Oxford Paul received some of the highest graduate student accolades including the Beddington Medal from the British Society of Developmental Biology and the Harold M. Weintraub Award from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. His studies, under the mentorship of Professor Sir Richard Gardner and Dr. Ron McKay, provided a paradigm shift on how we understand and utilize stem cells for research and medicine and his work stands among the most recognized in all of stem cell biology.

Paul returned home to join the CWRU School of Medicine faculty in 2010 and his laboratory has pioneered new regenerative approaches to treat nervous system disorders including multiple sclerosis, pediatric leukodystrophies, cerebral palsy, and brain cancer. Paul is currently an Associate Professor and the Dr. Donald and Ruth Weber Goodman Professor of Innovative Therapeutics at CWRU. Paul’s scientific achievements continue to be recognized with numerous prestigious awards including the International Society for Stem Cell Research Outstanding Young Investigator Award in 2015 and the New York Stem Foundation – Robertson Stem Cell Prize in 2017.


Evo Devo


Patrick Lemaire – CNRS, University of Montpellier, Montpeillier, France
How invariant is ascidian development (and why?)

I initially trained as a physicist before embarking on a PhD in Molecular biology with Patrick Charnay at EMBL. I then trained as a developmental biologist with Sir John Gurdon during a post-doc at the then Wellcome-CRC institute in Cambridge. I led a research group at IBDM Marseille for 16 years first focusing on Xenopus embryonic body plan establishment, then switching to ascidian embryos. I relocated in 2011 to CRBM in Montpellier.

My team is using a systems biology approach to understand the dynamic construction of a complex 3D multicellular organism, using ascidians as model organisms because of their relative anatomical and genomic simplicity. Our multidisciplinary approach is to move step by step from genome sequence to transcriptional regulation, to the assembly of Gene Regulatory Networks, to the control of cell shapes. All these data are organized and stored in an advanced model organism database, ANISEED, which we use as the major integration platform for our results.


Cassandra Extavour – Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
Network analysis of signaling pathways reveals new mechanisms regulating the development and evolution of reproductive output in Drosophila

Cassandra Extavour is a native of Toronto, where she attended the University of Toronto Schools and went on to obtain an Honors BSc at the University of Toronto with a specialist in Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology, a Major in Mathematics and a Minor in Spanish. She obtained her PhD with Antonio Garcia Bellido at the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology at the Autonomous University of Madrid. She performed postdoctoral work first with Michalis Averof at the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete, Greece, and subsequently with Michael Akam at the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge she received a BBSRC Research Grant and became a Research Associate in the Department of Zoology. In 2007 she established her independent laboratory as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011 and to Full Professor in 2014.

Dr. Extavour has received numerous honors and awards, including the NSERC Canada, Trinity College and Edward Blake Admissions Scholarships and the Robert Philips Award for Excellence in Spanish as an undergraduate student; a graduate training fellowship of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Research as a graduate student; the EMBO Short Term Fellowship as a postdoctoral researcher, and the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar in Aging Award as an Assistant Professor. For her teaching and mentoring activities, she has been nominated for the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize and the Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering Mentoring Award.

Dr. Extavour began working on germ cell development in graduate school. In her Ph.D. thesis, she used classical Drosophila genetics to explore the genetic requirements of germ cells during development. Using clonal analysis, she showed that primordial germ cells engage in cell-cell competition prior to gametogenesis, revealing a level of natural selection that operates not only pre-zygotically, but in the very precursors of gametes themselves. This means that allele frequencies can potentially be changed from one generation to the next, not only by natural selection operating on sexually mature adult individuals, but also on the cells responsible for producing the gametes that will ultimately give rise to those individuals. Because of the critical role of germ cells not only in development but also in evolution, her subsequent work has focused on germ cell development in a comparative context.

The Extavour laboratory is interested in understanding early embryonic development, the genes that control this development, the evolutionary origins of these genes and how their functions have changed over evolutionary time. The lab is particularly interested in the development and evolution of reproductive systems, including both germ cells, which are cells that make eggs and sperm in sexually reproducing animals, and somatic gonad cells, which create the structures to house and protect the germ cells, and regulate egg and sperm production.

Outside the lab, Dr. Extavour has been a musician and performer since the age of five, and a professional classical singer since her undergraduate days in Toronto, when she was a member of the Tafelmusik Chorus. She currently performs with the Handel and Haydn Society and Emmanuel Music in Boston.


Karen Sears – UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Developmental origin and evolution of bats

Karen E. Sears earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Evolutionary Biology in 2003, performed postdoctoral research with Dr. Lee Niswander at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Colorado, and joined the University of Illinois faculty in 2007. In summer of 2017 Dr. Sears moved her lab to UCLA, where she is currently Chair and Professor of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. Dr. Sears has served as the President of the Pan American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology, and as an editor for several journals including Evolution and Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Dr. Sears currently is funded by NIH and NSF to pursue her research on the evolution and development of mammals. Her lab’s primary research goals are to determine how developmental variation interacts with environmental factors within a species to produce congenital malformations in humans, and among species to generate new evolutionary adaptations in mammals. To achieve these goals, her lab works on many non-model and model mammalian species, including bats, deer, horses, mice, opossums, and pigs.


Peter Holland – University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
What is evolutionary conversation? Lessons from ParaHox genes of unusual animals

Peter Holland is the Linacre Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford. After a PhD working on mouse developmental biology, he spent the next 30 years comparing genes, gene expression and genomes across the animal kingdom, with recent focus on amphioxus, insects, fish, molluscs and mammals. He has been working on homeobox genes since 1984 and sees no reason to change now.


Cell Fate Decisions


Nancy Papalopulu – Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Manchester, UK
Quantitative and dynamic analysis of neurogenesis with single cell resolution at the tissue level

Nancy Papalopulu is a Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, UK. She did her PhD at the National Institute for Medical Research, UK and a post-doc at the Salk Institute for Biomedical Research, US. She was a Group Leader the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute in Cambridge from 1997-2006. She is Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, was elected to EMBO in 2012 and to the Medical Academy of Sciences in 2013. Her main research interest is the molecular control of vertebrate neurogenesis, in particular, using dynamic and quantitative approaches to understand the mechanisms that underlie the maintenance of neural progenitors during development.


Olivier Pourquie – Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
Deconstructing the Segmentation Clock oscillator in vitro

Olivier Pourquie is Professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Pathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He was the director of the Institute for Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC) in France and before that a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Institute in Kansas City.

The Pourquie laboratory is a world leader in vertebrate musculo-skeletal axis development. Using chicken and mouse embryos as model systems, they combine developmental biology and genomic approaches to study patterning and differentiation of the precursors of muscles and vertebrae. They also develop quantitative approaches at the interface with physics to study morphogenesis of the vertebral column. While most of this work is being carried out in vivo, they also develop protocols to recapitulate these early developmental processes in vitro using mouse and human embryonic or reprogrammed stem cells. They are also turning to translational approaches, using their understanding of the early development to produce cells of the muscle and vertebral lineages in vitro from pluripotent cells to study human diseases of the musculo-skeletal axis and for cell therapy approaches.

Dr. Pourquie authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. He is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and of the Academia Europea. His work on the segmentation clock that controls the periodicity of vertebrae was recognized as one of the milestones in developmental biology of the 20th century by Nature Magazine. He is the Editor in Chief of the journal Development. Pourquie graduated as an engineer in France and trained with Nicole Le Douarin in Paris.


James Sharpe – EMBL, Barcelona, Spain
Limbs, Turing Patterns and the 50th anniversary of the French Flag Problem

James Sharpe was originally captivated by computer programming, but upon learning about the digital nature of the genetic code, chose to study Biology for his undergraduate degree at Oxford Univeristy (1988-1991). He then did his PhD on the genetic control of embryo development at NIMR, London (1992-1997) and in parallel started writing computer simulations of multicellular development. During his post-doc in Edinburgh, he began modelling the dynamics of limb development, and also invented a new optical imaging technology called Optical Projection Tomography (OPT), which is dedicated to imaging specimens too large for microscopy - tissues and organs. In 2006 he moved to Barcelona, becoming a senior group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, and focusing on a systems biology approach to modelling limb development – combining experimentation with computer modelling. In this way the group demonstrated that the signalling proteins which pattern the fingers during embryogenesis, act as a Turing reaction-diffusion system. In 2011 he became the coordinator of the Systems Biology Program, and in 2017 was recruited to EMBL as Head of the new Barcelona outstation on Tissue Biology and Disease Modelling.


Judith Kimble – University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA
Molecular and network understanding of a sperm/oocyte cell fate decision

Judith Kimble is Vilas Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received her Ph. D. from University of Colorado, Boulder, was a postdoc at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge UK, and joined the UW-Madison faculty Madison in 1983. Kimble is best known for her pioneering identification of a stem cell niche in the nematode C. elegans and subsequent analyses of genes, molecules, pathways and regulatory networks that regulate stem cells and cell fate specification. She began with HHMI in 1994 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995. She has served the biomedical research community in numerous capacities, including President of the Society of Developmental Biology, Chair of the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science and member of the NRC Committee, The Next Generation Researchers Initiative.


Niko Geldner – University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
The root endodermis - an independent way of building a polarised epithelium

Niko Geldner studied biology at the Universities of Mainz, Bordeaux 2 and Tübingen. He started to work in the lab of Gerd Juergens and did his diploma thesis (1998) and PhD thesis (1998-2003) in the same laboratory, working on the role of GNOM in Arabidopsis embryogenesis and the polar localisation of the PIN1 auxin efflux carrier. He left Tuebingen in 2004 to do a Postdoc as an EMBO and HFSP fellow at the Salk Insitute in La Jolla, California, in the lab of Joanne Chory, working on endosomal trafficking of the plant steroid receptor kinase BRI1 and the development of the WAVE marker set of sub-cellular compartments. In 2007, he started as an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. He was awarded a Young Investigator starting grant and Consolidator grant of the European Research Council (ERC) in 2007 and 2013, respectively. In 2011 he became EMBO Young Investigator and was elected EMBO member in 2017.


Positional Information


Lee Niswander – University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado, USA
Visualizing neural tube closure and uncovering the causes of neural tube defects

Lee Niswander, PhD, is the Chair of the Department in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at University of Colorado Boulder since 2017. Her graduate training was in mouse genetics and embryonic development with Terry Magnuson at Case Western Reserve University. Her postdoctoral studies with Gail Martin at the University of California, San Francisco focused on limb development using chick as a model system. From 1993-2004 she was a faculty member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the Developmental Biology program and Professor at Cornell University Medical School in New York City. From 2004-2017 she was Section Head of Developmental Biology and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. Dr. Niswander's honors include the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a Pew Scholars Award, Harland Winfield Mossman Developmental Biologist Award, and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has been President and Board Member of the Society for Developmental Biology and she serves as the representative to FASEB for the Society for Developmental Biology.


Kate Storey – University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
FGF/Erk promotion of polycomb-mediated repression regulates neural differentiation onset

Kate Storey is Head of the Division of Cell & Developmental Biology and Chair of Neural Development at the University of Dundee. She investigates cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating vertebrate neural differentiation in embryos and embryonic stem cells. Her work involves the development of novel imaging approaches for monitoring cell behaviour during neurogenesis as well as the investigation of the signalling switch that controls differentiation onset.


Yohanns Bellaiche – Institut Curie, Paris, France
Mitosis and epithelial morphogenesis

Research and professional experience
Since Jan 2011Deputy Director of the "Genetics and Developmental Biology Department" UMR 3215-U934, Curie Institute, Paris, France
Since 2008Senior Group Leader "Polarity Division Morphogenesis team, "Genetics and Developmental Biology Department" CNRS U3215 INSERM U934 Curie Institute, Paris (France).
2003 - 2008Junior Group Leader / CNRS ATIPE, Cell Biology Department UMR144, Curie Institute, Paris (France).
1998 - 2003Postdoctoral Fellow Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris. France. Laboratory of Dr. F. Schweisguth.
1995 - 1998PhD thesis, Harvard Medical School, Boston. USA. Laboratory of Dr. N. Perrimon.

Recent Achievements:
Our recent achievements includes the elucidation of the mechanisms underlying adherent junction remodelling during cell division and cell rearrangements (Pinheiro et al., Nature 2017; Herszterg et al., Dev Cell 2013 and Bardet et al., Dev Cell 2013) as well as the understanding of the mechanical contribution of the Fat/Ds/Fj pathway during tissue morphogenesis by linking cellular dynamics and mechanics to tissue shape changes (Bosveld et al., Science, 2012). Furthermore, my team has deciphered the mechanisms of cell division orientation (Bosveld et al., Nature 2016) and developed advanced physical tools to characterize tissue dynamics (Guirao et al., Elife, 2015).

Distincts and Awards:
-ERC Advanced Grant (2014-2019)
-Elected as EMBO member (2012)
-ERC starting Grant (2009-2014)
-Young Investigator EMBO Award (2005)
-CNRS Bronze Medal Award (2002)
-Paoletti Award (2002)


Jan Traas – Laboratory of Plant Reproduction and Development, Lyon, France
Flower development : from morphodynamics to morphomechanics

Jan Traas, has been working in the field of plant cell and developmental biology for more than thirty years, addressing problems such as cell expansion, cell division, totipotency of plant cells, cell signalling, differentiation, and meristem function. Initially trained as a cell biologist, he rapidly started to integrate other approaches, including protein biochemistry and molecular genetics, in his research. His work has concerned both model species and species of agronomic interest.

In 2002, then working at the INRA centre of Versailles and realizing that biology had to reach out to other disciplines, he set up a number of research projects together with computer scientists and physicists. This resulted in the first computational models of hormone transport at the plant tissue level.

In 2005 he moved to Laboratory of Plant reproduction and Development in Lyon, with the aim of setting up an ambitious research project on the multidisciplinary analysis of plant development. Indeed, the campus in Lyon is particularly well suited for such a project as it has departments for computer science, physics and mathematics ready for collaborations of this type. He has since then set up three multidisciplinary research teams (involving biologists, physicists and computer scientists) at the department, currently involving over 30 permanent and non-permanent staff members.


Plenary Lecture
Ottoline Leyser – University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Dual mode strigolactone signaling and the bud activation switch

Ottoline Leyser is Professor of Plant Development and Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University. Her research uses the control of shoot branching in Arabidopsis as a model system to understand the role of plant hormones in plant developmental plasticity. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. She is currently Chair of the BSDB, serves on the Council for Science and Technology and Chairs the Royal Society’s Science Policy Advisory Group. In 2017 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to plant science, science in society and equality and diversity in science.


Plenary Lecture
Elizabeth Robertson – University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Specification of the definitive endoderm and midline progenitors in the early post-implantation mouse embryo

Liz Robertson is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Developmental Biology in the Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford. Liz did her PhD then post-doc in Cambridge where, working together with Allan Bradley in Martin Evans lab, she successfully established the first mouse embryonic stem cell lines and showed they routinely colonized the mouse germ line. Liz moved to the US in the late 1980s to join the faculty of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical School where she published the first successful use of gene targeting to generate a genetically modified mouse strain. With Arg Efstratiadis she discovered that the Igf2 locus is subject to parental imprinting, identifying the first mammalian gene controlled in this manner. She was recruited to Harvard FAS in 1992, where for the next decade her lab worked extensively on the Nodal signalling pathway uncovering the critical role played by the Nodal in patterning the early embryo and specifying the left-right body axis. Since moving to Oxford 14 years ago, her lab has shown that the T-box factor Eomes functions downstream of Nodal/smad signals in specifying the definitive endoderm and cardiovascular lineages during gastrulation. Most recently her lab has been studying the zinc-finger transcriptional repressor Blimp1/Prdm1 and shown it governs numerous developmental processes including specification of the germ cell lineage, maturation of the gut endoderm and formation of the invasive trophoblast lineage. Liz is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and a member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea. She is a former Chair of the British Society for Developmental Biology.


Cheryl Tickle Medal Talk
Christina Ruhrberg – UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK
Cheryll Tickle Medal Lecture: Using the mouse embryo hindbrain as a model to understand neuronal and vascular development. 

Christiana Ruhrberg studied Biology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen in Germany and obtained a first class Diploma/MSc degree in 1992 following thesis research on genetic alterations in ovarian cancer at the University of Sussex. She received a PhD in Biochemistry from Imperial College in 1997 for identifying new epidermal barrier proteins in Fiona Watt's lab at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now the Francis Crick Institute). She carried out postdoctoral research on hindbrain development in the laboratories of Robb Krumlauf at the National Institute for Medical Research in London (1997-1999) and on vascular development in David Shima at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (2000-2002). She became an independent researcher in 2003 with an MRC Career Development Award to study neurovascular interactions at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. She was appointed Lecturer at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in 2007, promoted to Reader in 2008 and is full Professor since 2011. She received a Wellcome Trust Junior Investigator Award in 2011 and a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in 2016 for her work on vascular biology in development and disease.


Plenary Lecture
John Gurdon – University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
The stability and reversal of gene expression in development

John Gurdon, a Zoology undergraduate at Oxford University, joined the MRC molecular biology lab Cambridge in 1971 and co-founded a research Institute of developmental and cancer biology (The Gurdon Institute) with Professor Laskey in 1983. His career has concentrated on nuclear transplantation in the frog and experiments to discover the value of mRNA microinjection, mechanisms of response to morphogen gradients, and recently, mechanisms of nuclear reprogramming by Xenopus oocytes and eggs. Master of Magdalene College Cambridge from 1995-2002, his recognitions include the 2009 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Science and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2012.