Speakers 2019

Find out more about the confirmed speakers of Horizons 2019. Click on the speaker's name for more details.


Miki Ebisuya, EMBL Barcelona, Spain

The Ebisuya group addresses the mechanism of developmental processes by reconstituting in vitro the cellular circuits. Features such as differentiation, pattern and tissue formation are compared in vitro to their in vivo counterparts. Additionally, the group works on recapitulation of developmental principles by organoid formation. As stem cells are widely available for a spectrum of species, organoid formation offers direct interspecies comparison, under controllable conditions, gaining new insights on the conserved principles of animal development


Michael Levine, Princeton University, USA

The Levine lab addresses the mechanisms of switching genes on and off during development. These studies revealed several gene expression patterns in Drosophila embryo and the molecular interactions of enhancers with gene promoters. The most recent focus of Prof. Levine is to investigate the importance of non-coding regions in spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression during development


Margaret McCarthyUniversity of Maryland, USA

Dr. McCarthy has dedicated her research to understand the cellular mechanisms that define gender differences in the developing brain. Her studies have showed that steroid hormones can change the epigenetic profile of genes involved in feminization or masculinization programmes, reflecting the basis of differentiation in physiology and sexual behavior among males and females. Other aspects of her research involve neurogenesis, as well as immune-mediated and GABA-related sex differences in the brain, with special emphasis on the gender bias in neuropsychiatric studies.


Leo James, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK

James group is interested on the recognition and neutralization of pathogens intracellularly. They combine cell biology with biophysical and structural biology techniques to unravel the molecular interactions and the endless evolutionary race between host and pathogens. This approach led to the discovery of TRIM21, an intracellular recognition protein which couples the recognition of a pathogen with the cellular degradation mechanism in order to neutralise it. Focus on TRIM21 is indispensable not only for a global comprehension of the immune system but is also promising for many applications regarding possible therapeutic strategies.


Zoya Ignatova, University of Hamburg, Germany

Ignatova lab focuses on the mechanisms that create misfolded proteins, as well as their impact on the cell homeostasis. They investigate how protein synthesis affects the protein function and how the protein synthesis machinery adapts to stress. Additionally, they focus on the impact of environmental factors, such as aging, on cell homeostasis, by addressing the synthesis of pathological protein forms. Using inter-disciplinary approach, they intend to unravel the mechanisms that create misfolded proteins which are the causal factor for a spectrum of diseases, including neurodegeneration.


James WilliamsonNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Maryland, USA

The Williamson lab focuses on the interactions of RNA with proteins and the architecture of RNA folding. Using a wide spectrum of techniques, they investigate the assembly of the ribosome, a large molecular machine. Additionally, they address the impact of RNA-protein interactions on the regulation of several physiological phenomena, such as the germline development and T-cell activation. Expanding this knowledge, they also set the question how RNA-protein interactions play a role in disease, e.g. after HIV infection.  


Gaia Pigino, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany

Dr. Pigino uses the powerful technology of cryo-EM and electron tomography with the aim to describe the structural basis of flagella and cilia assembly and motility. Bi-directional, intraflagellar transport (IFT) of cargo proteins is necessary for successful cilia assembly at the distal tip and is achieved by the action of many multi-protein complexes. Dr Pigino has focused on revealing the remodelling events of IFT machinery which are regulated by the dynamic composition of the ciliary tip complex and lead to the coordinated transport of proteins across the cytoskeleton for cilia assembly.


Sjors Scheres, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England

The Scheres lab implements 3D-Cryoelectron Microscopy to visualize the dynamics of molecular machines and complexes. The main focus is found on two sections: the first is the development of algorithms that facilitate the image processing and classification of projections (such as RELION), which is highly complicated given the structural heterogeneity of complexes. The second part focuses on the structure and dynamics of amyloid filaments, an important component in Alzheimer's disease. 3D-Cryo EM is a powerful tool to unravel the structural interconvention between the ''healthy'' and pathological versions of these proteins.


Max Cryle, EMBL Australia, Australia

Cryle group covers the biology and biotechnology of antibiotics. Not only they intend to unravel the highly complicated natural biosynthetic pathway of known antibiotics, but also try to re-create and modify this pathway, in order to synthesize novel antimicrobial compounds. Additionally, they are interested in the molecular mechanism of action and the identification of novel targets in pathogens that would be potential candidates for an optimized group of antibiotics. 


Michael RosbashBrandeis University, USA

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017


Leonie RingroseHumboldt University of Berlin, Germany

Leonie Ringrose studies epigenetic regulation with a special focus on the Polycomb and Trithorax groups of proteins. These proteins work antagonistically on genes to maintain repressed or active transcription states. Using a combination of quantitative live cell imaging, mathematical modeling and computational approaches, as well as molecular and developmental biology techniques, her lab seeks to understand how a fluctuating system ensures stability and flexibility of gene expression states.


Christopher Vollmers, University of California Santa Cruz, USA

During his time in Stanford, Chris Vollmers developed a cheap, easy, and accurate way to sequence full length antibody repertoires. These days he heads a group that is writing algorithms for identifying and quantifying splice isoforms from directly sequenced RNA transcripts and long cDNA amplicons. He is also a big Star Wars fan. Check out his group's website for cool references to the film and cute photos of puppies.


Asifa Akhtar, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Germany

Akhtar´s lab uses interdisciplinary approaches and techniques to study epigenetic regulatory mechanisms underlying X-chromosome specific gene regulation, using Drosophila dosage compensation as a model system. Namely, her lab aims to address how the dosage compensation ribonucleoproteic complex gets targeted to the X chromosome. The group also tackles the question utilizing novel approaches as, for example, elucidating the mechanism by which the MSL complex modulates X chromosomal transcriptional output at a single cell resolution all the way to chromosomal and organismal level.


Robert Ernst, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany


Randy Hampton, University of California San Diego, USA


Jen Heemstra, Emory University, USA

The lab of Jen Heemstra utilizes basic properties of RNA and DNA molecules, such as highly specific molecular recognition and their propensity towards self-assembly, to generate functional architectures for biosensing and bioimaging.


Pavel TomancakMax Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany


Tatjana KleeleLaboratory of Experimental Biophysics, Switzerland

Manley´s group applies state-of-the-art imaging techniques combined with live cell imaging and single molecule tracking to determine how the dynamics of protein assembly are coordinated. For example, they utilize super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (PALM/STORM) and high-density single molecule particle tracking (sptPALM), as well as they perform 3D single-particle reconstrunction from electron microscopy (EM). However, they are also involved in developing chemical biology tools for advanced fluorescence imaging and studying cellular biophysics of protein and lipid transport and assembly.


Naama BarkaiWeizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Barkai´s lab brings together interdisciplinary fields, ranging from physics, mathematics, computer science, biology and chemistry to tackle the novel field of quantitative epigenetics within Systems Biology. This focus aims to understand how biological circuits were selected through evolution to become what they are today.


Needhi BhallaUniversity of California, USA

Needhi Bhalla's lab studies the regulation of chromosome synapsis during meiotic prophase using C. elegans.


Argyris PapantonisUniversity Medical Center Göttingen, Germany