Speakers 2022


Chris Proud

Professor Chris Proud studies the intracellular signalling pathways that control protein synthesis (mRNA translation). Recent research concerns the regulation of protein synthesis in neuronal cells, cancer cell biology, and the molecular mechanisms involved in diet-induced obesity.  A particular focus are protein kinases that control the protein synthesis machinery, i.e. mammalian target of rapamycin, elongation factor 2 kinase and the MAP kinase-interacting kinases. 

From 2002-2008, Chris was Head of Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia and served as Co-Director of UBC's Life Science Institute. At the University of Southampton (2008-2014), he led a substantial research team studying the control of protein synthesis and ribosome biogenesis in settings such as cancer and neurological disorders. In 2014, Chris moved to Adelaide to become Theme Leader: Nutrition and Metabolism at the SAHMRI. In 2019, Chris was appointed  the position of Theme leader: Lifelong Health. 


James Rothman

James E. Rothman is the Sterling Professor of Cell Biology at Yale University and chairs Yale School of Medicine's Department of Cell Biology. His research has elucidated the molecular mechanisms and machinery governing vesicle traffic in the cell, explaining such diverse processes as the secretion of hormones like insulin, the action-potential controlled release of neurotransmitters in synaptic transmission, and the propagation of membrane compartments of the cytoplasm during cell growth and division. This work has been recognised by many awards including the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Biomedical research (2002), the Kavli Prize for Neuroscience (2010) and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2013). Rothman graduated from Yale College (1972) with a BA in Physics, then attended Harvard Medical School (1971-1976) as an MD-PhD student, leaving before completing the MD program. Before returning to Yale in 2008 he held professorships at Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia universities, and was Vice-Chairman to the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. 


Kerstin Göpfrich

Kerstin Göpfrich is a Max Planck Research Group Leader of the "Biophysical Engineering" group at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Principal Investigator in the Cluster of Excellence "3D Matter Made to Order" at KIT and Heidelberg University, and Fellow of the Max Planck School "Matter to Life". Her research focuses on the construction of artificial cells from custom-engineered components.  With the help of DNA/RNA nanotechnology, functional components are created that equip lipid vesicles with properties of living cells. For example, the team succeeded in producing artificial cytoskeletons or controlling the division of synthetic cells. Kerstin Göpfrich received, among others, the Women Interactive Materials Award and the Hector Career Development Award. She was awarded a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship and received one of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Fellowships from the Bill & Melinda Gates Found.


Kushagara Bansal

Kushagra Bansal received his PhD degree in Microbiology & Cell Biology from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 2010. His doctoral research was focused on the signaling pathways that govern the immune subversive phenotype of macrophages and dendritic cells during pathogenic infections. Kushagra carried out his post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School, Boston. During his post-doctoral tenure, Kushagra sought to delineate the molecular basis of immune tolerance mechanisms that operate in the thymus.

In 2018, Kushagra joined the Molecular Biology & Genetics unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, as a faculty member. He was awarded Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India and DBT/Wellcome India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship to jump start his research program. His research group focuses on understanding the mechanistic details of gene regulation in immune cells and also aims to unveil dysregulation of these mechanisms in infectious and autoimmune diseases.


Meytal Landau

 

Meytal Landau is an Associate Professor at the Technion Faculty of Biology, a visitor group leader at EMBL Hamburg, and an associate member at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB), Hamburg. Her lab focuses on the assembly of proteins into functional fibrils associated with microbial pathogenicity and infections, and their connection to neurodegenerative diseases via the gut-brain axis. She holds a PhD degree from Tel-Aviv University under the supervision of Prof. Nir Ben-Tal, and conducted her postdoctoral research at UCLA with Prof. David Eisenberg. Prof. Landau holds three patents and has published more than 55 papers in professional journals, cited >4000 times, and was invited to present her work at around 50 international conferences. She has received more than 20 awards and honors, including the Biophysical Society’s Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award (2019) and the Wolf Foundation’s Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research (2018).


Oliver Duss

Olivier Duss studied Chemistry at the ETH Zurich. After traveling for 6 months, teaching Chemistry at a high school and doing a research stay with Kurt Wüthrich, he did a PhD in the group of Prof. Fred Allain at the ETH Zurich developing integrative structural biology approaches (combining NMR with electron paramagnetic resonance) for structure determination of dynamic protein-RNA complexes and investigating how bacterial non-coding RNAs regulate translation initiation. In 2014, he moved to California to do a joint-postdoc in the labs of Jamie Williamson at Scripps Research and Jody Puglisi at Stanford University where he developed single-molecule fluorescence microscopy approaches to study co-transcriptional ribosome assembly. Since the end of 2020, he is a group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, where he studies how RNA folds and how protein-RNA complexes assemble in context using a combination of single-molecule techniques, structural biology and biochemistry (https://www.embl.org/groups/duss/).


Orly Laufman

Dr. Orly Laufman earned her BSc (2002) and MSc (2005) degrees in biology, both summa cum laude, from the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. She completed her PhD (2010) and her postdoctoral fellowship (2011) under Prof. Sima Lev at the Weizmann Institute studying trafficking of proteins in human cells in health and disease. In 2019, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Raul Andino in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco studying the cell biology of positive-strand RNA viruses and afterwards, continued on as an associate specialist. Dr. Laufman joined the faculty of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute in March 2021 and opened a lab dedicated to the studies of RNA viruses. She is the recipient of 2021 Sir Charles Clore Prize for Outstanding Senior Scientist at the Weizmann Institute.


Prerana Shrestha

Prerana Shrestha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior at Stony Brook University in the Renaissance School of Medicine. Her lab studies cell type-specific protein synthesis dynamics during memory processes in both healthy and diseased brain states. Prerana received her Ph.D. in Life Sciences from The Rockefeller University. She did her postdoctoral work at NYU Center for Neural Science, where she developed novel chemogenetic strategies to block nascent protein synthesis with cell type specificity and applied them to probe protein synthesis requirement in memory consolidation. She has received several accolades for her work – she was named the Molecular and Cellular Cognition Society (MCCS) Scholar in 2017, and more recently she has been named a Sloan Research Fellow in 2022. Prerana is also a recipient of the Anuradha Rao Memorial travel award, and a NARSAD Young Investigator grant.


Tamal Das

Tamal pursued his doctoral research in the Microfluidics lab at Indian  Institute of Technology Kharagpur and graduated in 2010. In 2011,  Tamal joined Prof. Joachim Spatz’s department at the Max Planck  Institute for Intelligent Systems (in Stuttgart, Germany) as a project  leader. In November 2016, Tamal moved to TIFR (Tata Institute of  Fundamental Research) Hyderabad and started his own group. His group  is trying to understand how individual cells in our body link together  to build different organs, move together during wound healing, and act  together to remove cancer cells. Tamal has received the prestigious  Intermediate Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust (UK)-India Alliance for  this research theme, and his group is recognized as a partner group by  the Max Planck Society, Germany. 

 


Azim Surani

Azim Surani received his PhD at Cambridge University (1975) under Robert Edwards, established his lab at the Animal Research Station in Cambridge (1979) and was elected Marshall-Walton Professor at the Gurdon Institute (1992) and later Director of Germline and Epigenetics Research (2013). His research led to the discovery of genomic imprinting (1984), which is critical for totipotency and mammalian development, and pivotal for advances in epigenetics, including the unique epigenetic resetting of the mammalian germline. Surani also elucidated the hitherto unknown genetic basis of previously unknown germ cell specification in humans (2015) and other mammalian species. His awards include a Royal Medal, McEwen Award by the ISSCR, Rosenstiel Award, Genetics Society’s Mendel Medal and the Gairdner International Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society.


Dimple Notani

After finishing her doctoral degree in India, Dimple moved to San Diego to work in the laboratory of Prof. Michael Geoff Rosenfeld to study the enhancer functions under signaling paradigm. Her work revealed the crucial roles of ligand induced enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) in gene regulation. Since early 2016, she is a group leader at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. Dimple is an EMBO Global Investigator and a Wellcome-DBT India Alliance Fellow. Her group uses multidisciplinary approaches from single molecule kinetics to genomics to understand the link among three-dimensional chromatin architecture, distal regulatory elements and associated eRNA in signalling driven gene regulation events. Recently, her group identified the book-marking of functional enhancers by unliganded receptor under basal signaling and they form enhancer condensates in ligand dependent manner for robust gene expression.These findings have implications in understanding the robust and specific signaling response in eukaryotes.


Shiv Pillai

Shiv Pillai MD PhD is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School. He is the director of the Harvard PhD and MMSc Immunology programs and of the HMS-HST MD student research program. He is also the program director of an NIH-funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Pillai coined the term “surrogate light chains” for proteins that he identified as part of the pre-B receptor, that drives early B cell development. His laboratory postulated and provided evidence for the first ligand-independent signaling model during lymphocyte development and showed that BTK, the product of the gene mutated in X-linked agammaglobulinemia, is functionally linked to the pre-B receptor and the B cell receptor. Btk inhibitors are now widely used in lymphoid malignancies and autoimmunity His laboratory is currently located at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and his group studies T cell-B cell collaboration and its relevance to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including IgG4-related disease, systemic sclerosis, common variable immunodeficiency and COVID-19.  He has been the recipient of a number of teaching awards at Harvard including the Irving M. London Award for Teaching and the Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award.  Dr. Pillai is the author of a monograph "Lymphocyte Development" and co-author with Abul Abbas and Andrew Lichtman of two widely used textbooks of immunology.


Konstanze Winklhofer

Konstanze F. Winklhofer is a cell biologist interested in pathomechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases. Her research activities are focused on 1. ubiquitin signaling at the interface between stress protection and immune responses, 2. regulation of the proteostasis network and 3. mitochondria as signaling organelles. Dr. Winklhofer studied Pharmacy at the University of Regensburg and Medicine at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) Munich, Mayo Medical School Rochester, USA, and University of Zurich, Switzerland. She performed her doctoral studies in molecular virology at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Martinsried. As a stipend of the German Research Foundation she trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Department of Cellular Biochemistry (Prof. Dr. F. Ulrich Hartl) and got her Habilitation from the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy at the LMU Munich. She continued her studies as a group leader at the LMU, Department of Metabolic Biochemistry, and at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Munich. After a research stay at the National Institutes for Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Biochemistry Section, Bethesda, USA she moved to Bochum, where she is chair of the Molecular Cell Biology Department at the Ruhr University Bochum since 2013.


Tom Rapoport

Dr. Tom Rapoport received his Ph.D. from Humboldt University (Berlin) and then joined the Zentralinstitut für Molekularbiologie der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR in Berlin. In 1995, he became a  Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and in 1997, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Rapoport is a member of the National Academies of the USA and Germany.  

In early work, Rapoport developed the Metabolic Control Analysis (MCA) (with Reinhart Heinrich). Subsequently, he elucidated the mechanism of protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane, which culminated in the determination of the first structure of a protein-conducting channel (together with Steve Harrison). He also studies the mechanism of ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD), recently determining the structure of the retro-translocon and elucidating the function of the Cdc48/p97 ATPase. Rapoport also studies how the ER is shaped and how proteins are imported into peroxisome


Marieke Oudelaar

Marieke Oudelaar obtained her BSc from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) and her MSc from the Karolinska Institute (Sweden).  She did her PhD in the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) in the laboratories of Doug Higgs and Jim Hughes. After her PhD, she received a Junior Research Fellowship from University College to continue her research in the WIMM. In 2020, she moved to Germany, to start the group “Genome organization and regulation” at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences.


Alexey Amunts


Alexey Amunts earned his PhD from Tel Aviv University for work on a plant Photosystem I, and did a postdoc at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge on cryo-EM studies of a mitoribosome that became known as the ‘Resolution Revolution’. In 2016, he established an independent group at Stockholm University focusing on mechanisms of mitochondrial translation and bioenergetics, and since 2020 he is an Associate Professor. The group studies mitochondrial protein synthesis and energy production at the molecular and cellular level, and examines how these fundamental processes are affected by natural selection and disease.


Alice Ting


Alice Ting is Professor of Genetics, Biology, and by courtesy, Chemistry at Stanford University. She was born in Taiwan, raised in Dallas, Texas, and received her degrees from Harvard (AB) and UC Berkeley (PhD), training with EJ Corey, Peter Schultz, and Roger Tsien. Alice started her independent laboratory at MIT in 2002, and was recruited to Stanford in 2016. Alice’s work straddles the interface of chemistry and biology and the molecular technologies she has invented, such as proximity labeling, have transformed the study of cells and neurons. She has received the NIH Pioneer Award, the Arthur Cope Scholar Award, and the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award. Alice has been a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub investigator since 2017.


Luca Scorrano


Luca Scorrano is Professor of Biochemistry at the Department of Biology, University of Padua (Italy). He completed his Medical Degree (1996) and his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathology (2000) at the University of Padua with Paolo Bernardi. From 2000 to 2003 he was Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School in Boston (USA), in the lab of the late Stanley J. Korsmeyer, a founding father of the field of apoptosis. In 2003 he was awarded an Assistant Scientist position at the Dulbecco-Telethon Institute, in 2006 he was recruited as Full Professor at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). In 2013 he moved to the University of Padova as Professor of Biochemistry (appointed by chiara fama) and from 2014 to 2020 he served as Scientific Director of the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine.

The work of L. Scorrano addresses the central question of form-function relationship at the molecular level. During his career, he has changed classical tenets in the fields of apoptosis, mitochondrial pathophysiology, and medicine. His work on cristae remodeling paved the way for the new field of mitochondrial dynamics. In the following years, his lab discovered that Opa1 works as a molecular staple holding cristae junctions tight, deficient in dominant optic atrophy, targeted during apoptosis and essential in vivo to control tissue damage and to correct mitochondrial diseases, as well as a key factor in angiogenesis that can be pharmacologically targeted to curtail tumor growth; identified the first molecular bridge between ER and mitochondria (propelling the new field of interorganellar contact sites); showed that mitochondria change shape to control autophagy, or to produce progesterone during pregnancy; demonstrated that cristae shape dictates assembly of proteins and efficiency of respiration; discovered a novel pathway of Notch1 signaling controlled by mitochondrial fusion and Ca2+ essential during heart development; discovered that mitochondrial fusion mounts a metabolic defense against Toxoplasma. He received several Prizes and Awards (including the 2006 Eppendorf European Young Investigator, the 2011 Chiara D’Onofrio Award and the 2013 European Society for Clinical Investigation Award). He was elected EMBO Member in 2012 and Member of the Academia Europaea in 2019 and he is among the Clarivate Highly Cited researchers in 2021. He sits on several Scientific Advisory Boards (e.g., Institut Necker Enfants Malades, Paris; IBT Czech Academy of Sciences), on reviewing panels of the ERC, the Flemish Science Foundation, the Finnish Academy of Sciences, and he chaired the EMBO Fellowship Committee until 2020. He is an Editorial Board member of several Journals including CDD, Cardiovasc Res, BBA-Mol Cell Res.


Nina Papavasiliou

Nina Papavasiliou studied Biology at Oberlin College and Rockefeller University. She continued her post-doctoral studies at Yale Medical School. She is now Professor at the Division of Immune Diversity, University of Heidelberg. She has a long-standing interest in molecular processes that generate informational diversity in a cell or organism. These include DNA mutation and RNA editing and modification, both crucial for the establishment of an optimal immune response. Equally, such processes are also at work in organisms (like the African trypanosome) that have evolved to evade the immune response. She has studied DNA mutation (in the context of mammalian antibody diversification), and RNA editing and modification (in innate immune cells), to understand the benefit of diversity for the immune response both in health and in disease. Prof. Nina Papavasiliou and her group have studied with equal intensity how parasites like the African trypanosome have evolved similar diversification mechanisms to evade the immune response (and have furthermore used the trypanosome as a tool to manipulate immune responses).