2016 Speaker Bios

Angelika Amon, PhD

Koch Institute for Intergrative Cancer Research, MIT, HHMI

Angelika Amon is a professor at the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Department of Biology and also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received her B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. She completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Ruth Lehmann at the Whitehead Institute as a Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow where she studied how germ cells are formed, and, was subsequently named a Whitehead Fellow for three years.

At the Koch Institute Dr. Amon studies the molecular mechanisms that control cell growth and division with a focus on the pathways that regulate chromosome segregation. Dr. Amon also studies how errors in this process lead to diseases such as Cancer and Down Syndrome and how they impact the aging process. She uses the budding yeast S. cerevisiae as a model system to study these questions and probes discoveries made in yeast in the mouse and human cells.


Kathryn V. Anderson. PhD

Sloan Kettering Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Kathryn V. Anderson, PhD, is Chair of the Developmental Biology Program and the Enid A. Haupt Chair in Developmental Biology, Sloan Kettering Institute. She trained in Drosophila developmental genetics with Dr. Judith Lengyel at UCLA and with the Nobel Laureate Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard in Tübingen, Germany. Dr. Anderson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. She received the 2012 Thomas Hunt Morgan Award of the Genetics Society of America for lifetime achievement in Genetics and the 2014 FASEB Excellence in Science Award. She is on the Editorial Boards of Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Anderson’s research has focused on the discovery of genes that control embryonic patterning and morphogenesis in both Drosophila and mice. She is noted for her discovery and characterization of the Toll signaling pathway, a central regulator of innate immune responses, and for her discoveries of dozens of genes required for intercellular signaling and tissue organization in mammals. 


Anne Ephrussi, PhD

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)

Anne Ephrussi is the Head of the Developmental Biology Unit at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany and the Head of the EMBL International Center for Advanced Training. She obtained her PhD in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1985, and carried out her postdoctoral studies at Harvard and at the Whitehead Institute (MIT). She is a member of EMBO, of the Academia Europaea, and of the French Académie des Sciences.

Combining genetics, cell biology and biochemistry, her research is focused on understanding how RNA molecules are transported, localized and translationally controlled within the cytoplasm for proper cell function and organismal development. As her main model, she uses the Drosophila oocyte, in which mRNA translation underlie patterning of the future embryo. 


Cynthia Kenyon, PhD

Vice President, Calico (California Life Company)

Cynthia Kenyon is Calico’s Vice-President of aging research. Dr. Kenyon graduated from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1981 and was a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner in Cambridge, England. In 1986 she joined the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, where she became the Herb Boyer Distinguished Professor and an American Cancer Society Professor, before joining Calico in 2014.

In 1993, Cynthia Kenyon’s pioneering discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of healthy, fertile C. elegans roundworms sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Her findings showed that, contrary to popular belief, aging does not “just happen” in a completely haphazard way. Instead, the rate of aging is subject to genetic control: Animals (and likely people) contain regulatory proteins that affect aging by coordinating diverse collections of downstream genes that together protect and repair the cells and tissues. Dr. Kenyon’s findings have led to the realization that a universal hormone-signaling pathway influences the rate of aging in many species, including humans. She has identified many longevity genes and pathways, and her lab was the first to discover that neurons, and also the germ cells, can control the lifespan of the whole animal. 


Maria Leptin, PhD

EMBO, Heidelberg, Germany

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 became the Director of EMBO and established a research group in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). Maria Leptin is an elected member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea. She also serves on the editorial boards of Developmental Cell and Developmental Biology and on the advisory boards of several academic institutions. She has chaired and has acted as member of one of the evaluation panels for European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grants.

Dr. Leptin’s group studies the mechanisms and forces that determine cell shape in Drosophila, focusing on the terminal cell of the Drosophila tracheal system and the formation of the ventral furrow in the early Drosophila embryo.  A second project uses the zebrafish model system to analyze innate immune signaling.


Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, PhD

Max-Planck Institute of Developmental Biology, Tübingen

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard studied biology, chemistry and physics in Frankfurt am Main from 1962 to 1964. At the University of Tübingen she received her diploma in biochemistry in 1968 and her PhD (genetics) in 1973. She worked as a postdoc subsequently in the laboratories of Dr. Walter Gehring at the Biozentrum in Basel (Switzerland) and of Dr. Klaus Sander at the University of Freiburg. Thereafter she was appointed group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) at Heidelberg from 1978 to 1980 and at the Friedrich-Miescher-Labor (FML) of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Tübingen from 1981 to 1985. Since 1985 she is scientific member of the Max-Planck-Society and director at the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology at Tübingen and since 1989 honorary professor at the university of Tübingen.

Her research interests concern the molecular and genetic analysis of development. The research presently focuses on pattern formation, growth and cell migration in the zebrafish, a new vertebrate model organism. For the discovery of genes that control development in animals and humans, and the demonstration of morphogen gradients in the fly embryo she received a number of awards and honors, among others the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award (New York/USA and in 1995 the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology together with Eric Wieschaus and Edward Lewis. 


David C. Page, MD

Whitehead Institute, MIT, HHMI

David Page, MD, is Director of the Whitehead Institute, a professor of biology at MIT, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program.  Dr. David Page’s honors include a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, Science magazine’s Top Ten Scientific Advances of the Year (1992 and 2003), and the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.  He is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His laboratory explores fundamental differences between males and females in health and disease, both within and beyond the reproductive tract.  Dr. Page’s lab recently discovered that XY and XX sex chromosomes account for subtle differences in the molecular workings of male and female cells and tissues throughout the body. 


Gertrud (Trudi) M. Schüpbach, PhD

Princeton University

Gertrud (Trudi) Schüpbach is the Henry Fairfield Osborn Professor of Biology, Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Schupbach received a Masters degree and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She performed postdoctoral work first at the University of Zurich and later at Princeton University. Dr. Schüpbach was elected to the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2000, and became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. She received the Edwin F. Conklin Medal from the Society of Developmental Biology in 2006 and was conferred an honorary Ph.D. Degree from the University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2011. She served as the president of the Genetics Society of America in 2008, and as the president of the Drosophila board in 2000. She has been an associate editor of the journal Genetics for over two decades.

The research in her laboratory focuses on cell-to-cell signaling processes that are involved in pattern formation during development, using Drosophila as a model system. In recent years her work has branched into questions of RNA localization and translational control, as well as understanding the general biology of epithelial cells.


Geraldine Seydoux, PhD

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, HHMI

Dr. Seydoux obtained her Ph.D. in 1991 from Princeton University with Iva Greenwald. She did her post-doctoral training at the Carnegie Institution of Washington with Andy Fire before joining the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1995. In 1999, she was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Institutes of Health, and in 2001 she received a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  She was appointed an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2005.

Dr. Seydoux’s research focuses on the development of the germline. She discovered that global inhibition of mRNA transcription is an essential first step to establish the embryonic germline, and that post-transcriptional mechanisms of gene regulation are essential during germ cell differentiation.  Most recently her lab has identified a family of serine-rich, intrinsically-disordered proteins that scaffold RNA granules in embryonic germ cells. Her lab has also developed methods for genome editing that take advantage of a highly efficient gene conversion mechanism in the germline. 


Eric F. Wieschaus, PhD

Princeton University, HHMI

Dr. Wieschaus graduated for the University of Notre Dame (B.S., 1969) and Yale University (PhD, 1974) then pursued postdoctoral work at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. He began work with Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory from 1978-81and joined the Faculty of Princeton University in 1981. Eric Wieschaus, together with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Edward B. Lewis won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

During his work with Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard, Dr. Wieschaus 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, that is, identifying key components in all pathways governing morphology, patterning and differentiation.  These experiments established a basic “tool box” of maternal factors and signaling pathways that operate in the Drosophila embryo and are conserved with remarkable fidelity in all multicellular organisms including humans.   Mutations in the associated genes account for a significant fraction of inherited birth defects in humans and play a major role in cancer. Dr. 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.