Speakers 2020

Pedro Carvalho (UK)

Pedro Carvalho and his lab investigate the mechanisms of protein homeostasis and organelle biogenesis in yeast and mammals. With a specialization in the field of ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD), his research has revealed novel substrate selection pathways and has further substantiated its importance in the definition of the functional proteome of the ER. In addition, his interest extends to the field of membrane contact sites, addressing questions regarding the role of ER in lipid droplet biogenesis.

Claire Deo (Germany) 

Dr. Claire Deo works at the EMBL Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit at the University of Heidelberg. The Deo group focuses develops novel fluorescent probes by combining synthetic chemistry and protein engineering in order to push the frontier of fluorescence imaging and allow interrogation of biological systems at the molecular, cellular and organism levels. One of the future aims of the group is developing of photoswitchable fluorophores - a technique that is particularly promising for super-resolution microscopy.


Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego (Germany)

Ruben Fernandez-Busnadiego is a new professor at UMG Göttingen, who combines cryo-FIB milling with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) to image cells preserved by vitrification at molecular resolution. One research line looks at membrane contact sites (MCS), structures where two cellular membranes come together to directly exchange Ca2+, lipids and metabolites, and therefore understand the structural and functional roles of different MCS-resident proteins in their cellular environment. The group also aims to unravel is the molecular architecture of neurons, both in their healthy state and in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. For example, recent work has revealed the intricate structure of the presynaptic cytomatrix, a dense network of filaments linking synaptic vesicles to each other and to the active zone, likely playing important roles in the regulation of neurotransmitter release.

Rachel Green (USA)

Rachel Green is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on elucidating the structure and function of ribosomes in bacteria, yeast and humans. Her group use biochemistry, genetic approaches, and ribosome profiling to understand the molecular mechanisms behind how a cell responds when protein synthesis goes awry.

Kristina Haase (Spain) 

As a group leader at EMBL Barcelona, Dr. Kristina Haase focuses her interests on the development of novel in vitro human assays for the examination of vascular diseases. Pathological conditions originating from endocrine disorders and sex-determined genetic differences are of their particular interest. They have expertise in perfusable 3D in vitro vascular models which are used to investigate vessel formation (vasculogenesis) and microvascular pathological conditions, with the main emphasis being the role of mechanical cues on vascular development. 

Richard Henderson (UK) 

Richard Henderson is a distinguished professor and structural biologist at MRC-LMB. He was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, shared with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank. Henderson‘s group pioneered relevant work on the so-called "electron crystallography" for 50 years now on membrane proteins. In the 90s, Henderson thought it was possible to obtain detailed atomic structures using electron microscopy, which he succesfully achieved by addressing techinical issues, and this led to the development of electron detectors - the "resolution revolution" was about to begin. Nowadays, Henderson‘s group efforts are still directed towards using both EM and X-ray to determine the structure of protein complexes, as well as improving imaging methods and processing, and the efficiency of electron detectors.


Samie Jaffrey (USA)

Dr. Samie Jaffrey is the Greenberg-Starr Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Weill Cornell Medicine and the scientific founder of Gotham Therapeutics. The Jaffrey lab investigates the function of RNA modifications in gene regulation and using synthetic and chemical biology approaches to develop RNAs with novel functions. They created a class of RNA mimick of green fluorescent protein, most notably Spinach, which comprises a specific RNA aptamer and a small molecule dye whose fluorescence is switched on upon binding the RNA. They are developing novel RNA-fluorophore complexes with novel spectral properties for studying RNA trafficking and imaging RNA processing events in living cells.

Eugene Koonin (USA)

Eugene Koonin is an expert in Computational Biology and Evolutionary Genomics. He works as a Senior Investigator at National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). His research includes comparing prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes, analyzing phylogenetic trees and classifying protein domains. 

Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy (USA) 

Dr. Ram Krishnamurthy is an Associate Professor at the Scripps Research Institute, Department of Chemistry. His lab investigates the chemical processes that govern the current state of the life, its emergence and those that contribute to its evolution. They mainly employ synthetic organic chemistry for a better understanding of how certain monomers are selected to make up informational polymers and how those biomolecules are selected by nature among possible alternatives in the context of structural stability and functionality in given conditions. 

Jay Mellies (USA) 

Jay Mellies and his lab have performed groundbreaking research on the biodegradation of major environmental pollutants. His work led to the discovery of “plastic-eating” bacteria, with the ability to degrade polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic), a major source of pollution. Furthermore, his research interests extent to the investigation of mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis of Escherichia coli and how virulence is regulated. 

Jane Mellor (UK) 

Jane Mellor is a Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Biochemistry in Oxford (UK). The group is a pioneer in the understanding of the role of non-coding transcription, demonstrating roles in switching chromosome conformation signatures to coordinate gene expression with metabolism by altering chromatin. Recent advances have uncovered links between chromatin, transcription and RNA fate, and between chromatin and metabolism. Lately, the group has employed mathematical modelling to uncover fundamental relationships between histone acetylation and transcription that are beyond the resolution of current experimental techniques. She is a EMBO member and has contributed to three spin-out companies: Oxford Biodynamics plc (OBD), Chronos Therapeutics Ltd. and Sibelius Natural Products Ltd, all with discoveries made first in yeast underpinning their technology.


Jan-Michael Peters (Austria) 

Jan-Michael Peters is Scientific Director of the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna. Peters’ research group studies the molecular mechanisms of chromosome organization and chromosome segregation in a variety of model organisms. His lab studies how protein cohesin is established between newly synthesized sister chromatids during DNA replication followed by its maintenance and release during meiosis. Furthermore, his research interest extends to investigate the role of cohesin in regulation of chromatin structure and gene expression. Using cutting edge research techniques, the group studies how anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome drives proper chromosome segregation in mitosis. As an elected member of EMBO, Peters has been coordinating two EU Integrated Projects, MitoCheck and MitoSys.

Argyris Politis (UK) 

Dr. Argyris Politis is a Senior Lecturer at King´s College London, Department of Chemistry. He currently is interested in structural dynamics of macromolecular assemblies by integrated approaches based on mass spectrometry. His recent work pioneered a hybrid method that combines HDX-MS and molecular dynamics simulations to model protein complexes.  

Abdou Rachid Thiam (France) 

Abdou Rachid Thiam and his research group are interested in membrane contact sites and lipid droplet biogenesis. His work is focused on the development of biophysical methods and in vitro models that elucidate the role of protein and membrane properties on the emergence of lipid droplets on the surface of the endoplasmic reticulum. 


Karissa Sanbonmatsu (USA)

Karissa Sanbonmatsu is a group leader at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Sanbonmatsu team applies a variety of computational and experimental approaches to understand the mechanism of a diverse array of non-coding RNA systems, including ribosomes, riboswitches and long non-coding RNAs. The Sanbonmatsu group was the first to elucidate the secondary structure of an intact long non-coding RNA and perform a biomolecular simulation of an entire gene.


Adi Stern (Israel)

Adi Stern's lab studies evolution and genomics of viruses at Tel-Aviv University. Her group uses a multidisciplinary approach including evolutionary and computationary biology to analyze the evolution of RNA viruses, phylogenomics of virus epidemics and host immunne defenses. Her research contributes to understanding how viruses adapt to constantly changed environments and how hosts fight back upon virus infection. 


Kikue Tachibana (Austria)

As a group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Tachibana aims to elucidate the mechanisms of zygotic reprogramming. To address this process, the Tachibana lab has recently developed and established a novel chromosome conformation capture (3C)-based method called single-nucleus Hi-C (snHi-C). Moreover, the group has provided new insights into the mechanisms underlying DNA methylation and the role of cohesin in maternal age effect.


Sara Wickström (Finland) 

Sara Wickström is an Associate Professor at the Helsinki Institute of Life Sciences since 2018. The Wickström lab combines state-of-the-art technologies from nanoscale atomic force microscopy and next-generation sequencing to novel ex vivo tissue culture methods, live imaging and in silico modeling all the way up to analysis of the clinical patient material. Collaborations with mathematicians, physicists, and clinical oncologists makes the research highly interdisciplinary. Recent work from the Wickström group has uncovered how a generation of cellular forces is important for controlling stem cell fate and coordinating cell fate with cell position within the tissue. Furthermore, the laboratory has discovered how extrinsic forces generated by the tissue impact chromatin structure and epigenetic gene silencing, thereby controlling the transcriptional state and lineage commitment of stem cells. 

Donate Weghorn (Spain)

Donate Weghorn focuses on evolutionary processes modeling. She is a group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain). Her lab uses cancer as an evolutionary system and studies modes of selection during tumorigeneses. They also develop mathematical and computational approaches to estimate selection. The main goal is to quantitatively descript evolutionary processes through the development of new probabilistic models and computational methods.

Maximina Yun (Germany) 

As an outstanding group leader at MPI-CBG, Dr. Maximina Yun and her research group investigate the underlying mechanisms of regeneration of vertebrates in a cellular and molecular context. Her research also elucidates the role of cellular senescence in vertebrate development and its potential evolutionary function. Moreover, she has discovered the mechanisms mediating reprogramming during regeneration. Using salamander as a model, she will continue to uncover the molecular basis of cellular plasticity and the potential role of the immune system in regenerative contexts.