Plenary Speakers
  • Elliot Meyerowitz, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) - Gruber Foundation award winner
  • Joanne Chory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla Gruber Foundation award winner
  • Alberto Kornblihtt, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Caroline Dean, John Innes Centre, UK
  • Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Max-Planck-Institut, Germany
  • Eske Willerslev,University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Ethan Bier, University of California, San Diego
  • Marc Van Montagu, IPBO, University of Ghent, Belgium
  • Mayana Zatz, University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • to be announced
Alberto Kornblihtt

Alberto R. Kornblihtt was born in 1954 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He graduated as a biologist (1977) from the School of Sciences (FCEN) of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and obtained a PhD in Biochemistry (UBA, 1980) at the Campomar Foundation, supervised by Héctor Torres. He did a post-doc (1981-1984) at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford (UK) with Tito Baralle, where he cloned the human fibronectin gene and found its alternative splicing. He is Plenary Professor at the Department of Physiology, Molecular and Cell Biology of the of the FCEN and Director of the Institute of Physiology, Molecular Biology and Neurosciences of the National Research Council (IFIBYNE-UBA-CONICET) of Argentina. From 2002 to 2017 he was an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). He is a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and a member of EMBO. He served the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science (2010-2015). He is also a member of the Argentine National Academies of Sciences and of Exact and Natural Sciences and of the Latin American Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Guggenheim fellowship (1991), the prize Investigator of the Argentine Nation (2010), granted by the President of Argentina, the TWAS prize in Medical Sciences (2012) and the Diamond Konex award as the most relevant scientist of the decade of his country (2013), ex aequo with the theoretical physicist Juan Martín Maldacena. He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Transcription and acted as President of the Argentine Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SAIB) for the term 2010-2011.

Caroline Dean

Prof. Caroline Dean did her PhD at the University of York on chloroplast development in wheat, and then spent 5 years as a post-doctoral research fellow in a biotech company (Advanced Genetic Sciences) in California, before returning to the John Innes Centre, UK in 1988 to start her own group. She served as Associate Research Director of the John Innes Centre (1999-2008) was elected to EMBO in 1999, Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004, and US National and German Leopoldina Academy in 2008 and in 2012 was selected as a Non-Resident fellow of Salk Institute. She was awarded an OBE in 2004 and appointed Dame Commander in 2016. She won a BBSRC Excellence in Bioscience award in 2014, the FEBS/EMBO Woman in Science award in 2015, the Royal Society Darwin medal 2016 and the L’Oreal/UNESCO Women European Laureate 2018.

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

Born on 20th October, 1942, in Magdeburg. Study of biology, physics and chemistry in Frankfurt/Main, degree in biochemistry Tübingen (1969), doctorate Tübingen Univ. (1973), postdoc in Basel and Freiburg, group leader EMBL (1978-1981), head of a junior research group at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society in Tübingen (1981-1984), Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology (since 1985). She is leading a research group focusing on the development of colour patterns in fishes. 

For the discovery of genes that control development in animals and humans, and the demonstration of morphogen gradients in the fly embryo Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard has received a number of awards and honors, among others the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, New York (USA), the Prix Louis Jeantet de Médecine, Geneva (Switzerland), the Ernst Schering Prize, Berlin (Germany), and the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1995. She is recipient of honorary degrees of the Universities Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Rockefeller (USA), Utrecht (the Netherlands), UC London, Oxford and Sheffield (UK), Freiburg and Munich (Germany). Memberships: foreign member of the Royal Society, London (UK), and the National Academy, Washington (USA); member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), the Leopoldina, Halle, the Berlin/Brandenburg Academy, the Order Pour Le Mérite, Berlin, and the Académie des Sciences, Paris. She was secretary general of the EMBO until 2009 and president of the Gesellschaft deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte until 2008. She has been a member of the Senate of the Max Planck Society, the National Ethics Council of Germany and several advisory boards and committees. Since 2005, she has been a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC). In 2010, she was elected to be vice chancellor of the Order Pour Le Mérite. In 2004, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard founded the CNV-Foundation to support women in Science with children.

Eske Willerslev

Eske Willerslev holds a Lundbeck Foundation Professorship at University of Copenhagen and is the director for Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics. He also holds the Prince Philip Chair in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Cambridge, UK. Additionally, Willerslev is a research associate the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Willerslev is an evolutionary geneticist. He is particularly known for sequencing the first ancient human genome and establishing the field of environmental DNA, where modern and ancient DNA from higher plants and animals are obtained directly from environmental samples. Willerslev was born in Denmark in 1971. After spending his youth as explorer and fur trapper in Siberia, he established the first ancient DNA laboratory in Denmark and obtained his DSc at University of Copenhagen in 2004. At the age of 33, Willerslev became Full Professor at University of Copenhagen - the youngest in Denmark at the time. Willerslev has been visiting researcher at the MD Anderson Cancer Research Centre in Austin, Texas, independent Welcome Trust Fellow at Oxford, have been Visiting Professor at Oxford University, and a Miller Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley. Willerslev is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (US), member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, horary doctor at University of Oslo Norway, and University of Tartu, Estonia and holds the Order of the Dannebrog (issued by her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark).

Ethan Bier

Ethan Bier is a professor in the section of Cell and Developmental Biology at UC San Diego.  During the past 25 years at UCSD Dr. Bier has studied basic developmental patterning processes that have been highly conserved during evolution such as how secreted morphogen proteins subdivide the dorsal-ventral axis of the fruit fly embryo into neural versus epidermal regions and how such processes result in the formation of sharp boundaries during development of the wing.  

The Bier lab has also used fruit flies to study mechanisms of human disease, focusing on understanding the mechanisms by which bacterial toxins contribute to breaching host barriers.  Thus, two toxins produced by anthrax bacteria trigger potentially fatal vascular leakage while cholera toxin leads to breakdown of the intestinal barrier leading to acute life-threatening diarrhea.  These findings suggest possible therapeutic approaches to combat anthrax and cholera as well as a variety of inflammatory diseases such as IBD and asthma, which also involve barrier dysfunction.  

Most recently, the Bier lab has discovered a novel genetic method referred to as active genetics which allows parents to transmit a desired trait to nearly all their offspring rather than to only 50% of their progeny as occurs with traditional Mendelian inheritance.  Active genetics promises to revolutionize control of vector borne diseases (e.g., malaria) and pests and to greatly accelerate genetic manipulation of organisms for medical and agricultural research.

Dr. Bier graduated Phi Beta Kappa as a Regents Scholar from UCSD in 1978 with degrees in Biology and Mathematics.  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School on regulation of immune genes in Dr. Allan Maxam’s laboratory from 1978-1985.  He did his postdoctoral studies on development of the nervous system at UCSD with Drs. Lily and Yuh Nung Jan (1985-90) and then assumed a faculty position at UCSD in 1990.  He is an Alfred P. Sloan and Basil O’Connor Scholar and an Allen Distinguished Investigator.

Marc Van Montagu

Em. Prof. Marc Van Montagu is a pioneer in plant molecular biology. He is well known (with J. Schell) as the discoverer of the Ti-plasmid and the inventor of Agrobacterium tumefaciens transformation technology, now used worldwide to produce genetically engineered plants. In addition to groundbreaking contributions to unravel the natural mechanism of gene transfer in A. tumefaciens, the laboratory of Marc Van Montagu has applied gene transfer technology to study gene regulation and to discover the molecular basis of several plant physiological processes. He has given pioneering contributions on plant gene discovery and regulation, plant molecular mechanisms of response to abiotic stresses, and plant development.
Dr. Marc Van Montagu has been Founding Member and Member of the Board of Directors of two Belgian biotech companies, spin-offs from his laboratory, Plant Genetic System (PGS) and CropDesign. At PGS he has driven front-line innovations for biotech agriculture, such as plants resistant to insects or tolerant to more environmentally friendly herbicides.
Dr. Marc Van Montagu has received numerous prestigious awards and honours, in particular the Japan Prize for Biotechnology and Agriculture Sciences in 1998, and the World Food Prize in 2013. He is member of 11 academies of sciences/agriculture worldwide and recipient of 8 honorary doctorate degrees. Marc Van Montagu was the President of the European Federation of Biotechnologists from 2005-2013, and was appointed UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador for the development of agriculture in low-income countries in 2014. He has produced over 1100 scientific publications that have received more than 85.000 citations. Due to his accomplishments, he received in 1990 the title of Baron from the King of Belgians.
Marc Van Montagu holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry/ Biochemistry and a BA in Chemistry from Ghent University.

Mayana Zatz

Mayana Zatz is Professor of Human and Medical Genetics. Director of the Human Genome Research Center (Hug-cell)  at the University of São Paulo ( USP).  She is Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and Academy of Sciences for the developing world (TWAS). Her researches in human and medical genetics, are focused mainly in neuromuscular disorders , aging and  stem-cells (modeling genetic disorders and cell therapy) , focusing the following aspects: gene identification, genotype-phenotype correlations , and mechanisms underlying clinical variability. She has published 400 peer-reviewed papers ( December, 2017), which were cited  9500  times (average 32  per paper). H index = 48, (web of knowledge); H=61, (Google Scholar, 16350 citations) . She mentored 49 Msc and or PhD thesis.  She was awarded several international prizes such as: L 'Oreal 's / UNESCO for Women in Science-as the best Latin American researcher in 2001 - TWAS for Research in Medical Sciences in 2004,   Mexican  Prize of Science and Technology in 2008 and Gaetano Conte in 2011. She was columnist of the weekly magazine VEJA having written more than 250  articles for lay people. She  is author of the book Gen ÉTICA. She has been actively involved in ethical aspects related to genome research, genetic testing and scientific political decisions regarding the approval of the embryonic stem -cells bill in 2005 and 2008.