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Plenary Lectures

Opening Plenary Lecture

Opportunistic RNAs and acquisitive genomes

Andrew Fire

Andrew Z. Fire

Stanford University School of Medicine, USA

A native of Santa Clara County, California, Andrew Fire received training at UC Berkeley (Mathematics BA: 1975–1978), MIT (Biology PhD: 1978–1983), and the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Cambridge UK (Postdoctoral: 1983–1986). From 1986 to 2003, he was on the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology in Baltimore Maryland. During his time in Baltimore, he assumed the position of Adjunct Professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. In 2003, Andrew Fire joined the faculty of the Departments of Pathology and Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine. The Fire lab studies cellular response to environmental and genetic change, using a variety of model systems and approaches.

FEBS Sir Hans Krebs Lecture

The Human Protein Atlas – implications for human biology, drug development and precision medicine

Mathias Uhlen

Mathias Uhlen

AlbaNova University Center, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden 

Mathias Uhlen is professor at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden. His research is focused on protein science, antibody engineering and precision medicine and ranges from basic research in human and microbial biology to more applied research, including clinical applications in cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases and neurobiology. He leads an international effort to systematically map the human proteome to create a Human Protein Atlas (www.proteinatlas.org) using antibodies and various omics technologies. This effort has so far resulted in the Tissue Atlas (2015) showing the distribution of proteins across human tissues and organs, the Cell Atlas (2016) showing the subcellular location of human proteins in single cells and the Pathology Atlas (2017) showing how cancer patient survival is tied to RNA and protein levels. He is the President of the European Federation of Biotechnology, and from 2010 to 2015 he was the founding Director of the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab), which is a Swedish national center for molecular bioscience.

FEBS Theodor Bücher Lecture

Regulation of gene expression by RNA-binding proteins and non-coding RNAs

Gunter Meister

Günter Meister

Department of Biochemistry I, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

Günter Meister is professor and chair for Biochemistry at the University of Regensburg, Germany. He graduated in Biology at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. During his PhD, he worked on the role of splicing regulation and obtained his PhD in 2002 from the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry and the Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany. From 2003 to 2005, he joined the lab of Tom Tuschl at the Rockefeller University in New York, USA as a postdoc and started to work on mechanistic aspects of small RNA-guided gene regulation. In 2005, he started his independent lab at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry. His lab contributed to our current understanding of the mechanism of microRNA regulation. In 2009, he was appointed full professor and chair for Biochemistry at the University of Regensburg, Germany. His research focus is the biochemical analysis of small RNA-guided gene silencing pathways, long non-coding RNAs, RNA-binding proteins and RNA modifications in mammals. His lab combines molecular biology and biochemistry with biophysical and structural approaches. Günter Meister received the Research Award of the Peter and Traudl Engelhorn foundation, the Schering Young Investigator Award as well as starting and consolidator grants of the European Research Council (ERC).

FEBS Datta Lecture

Human pluripotent stem cell models of cardiac and vascular disease

Christine Mummery

Christine Mummery

Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands 

Christine Mummery studied physics at the University of Nottingham, UK and has a PhD in Biophysics from the University of London. After positions as postdoc and tenured group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, she became professor at the University Medical Centre Utrecht in 2002. After a sabbatical at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in 2007, she introduced human iPS cells to the Netherlands.  In 2008, she became Professor of Developmental Biology at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and head of the Department of Anatomy and Embryology. Her research concerns heart development and the differentiation of pluripotent human stem cells into the cardiac and vascular lineages and using these cells as disease models, for safety pharmacology and drug discovery. Immediate interests are on developing biophysical techniques for characterization and functional analysis of cardiovascular cells from hPSCs.  In 2015 she became guest professor at the Technical University of Twente to develop organ-on-chip models. She was recently awarded a multimillion grant for this purpose and is awardee of a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant. She is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science (KNAW), and former board member of the International Society of Stem Cell research (ISSCR), the KNAW and the Netherlands Medical Research Council (ZonMW). She was recently awarded the Hugo van de Poelgeest Prize for Animal Alternatives in research. She co-authored a popular book on stem cells “Stem Cells: scientific facts and fiction” (2nd edition 2014) and is editor in chief of the ISSCR journal Stem Cell Reports.  She is also on the editorial boards of Cell Stem Cell, Cardiovascular Research and Stem Cells.

FEBS 2019 Plenary Lecture

Novel  insights into the inner workings of the spliceosome by combined biochemical and Cryo-EM studies

Lührmann_R Portrait-OK

Reinhard Lührmann

Max PIanck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany

Reinhard Lührmann is Director of the Department of Cellular Biochemistry of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Lührmann has been working for several decades on the assembly, structure and function of the spliceosome, the molecular machine that catalyses the removal of introns from nuclear pre-mRNAs. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the assembly, activation and catalytic action of the spliceosome are crucial not only for understanding a key step of gene expression, but also for unraveling the molecular basis of many diseases that are linked to aberrant splicing. He pioneered the purification, and the biochemical and functional characterization of human and yeast spliceosomes arrested at defined stages of assembly/function. A major concept that emerged from Lührmann’s work is that the spliceosome is continually remodeled during the splicing cycle, with dramatic exchanges of proteins occurring at multiple stages of the splicing process. Most recently, in collaboration with Holger Stark (MPIbpc), Lührmann has used cryo-electron microscopy to investigate the structures of human pre-catalytic and catalytically active spliceosomes at high resolution. These studies have provided a wealth of atomic structural information, and deep insights into the inner workings of the spliceosome and the dramatic RNP remodeling events that occur during its catalytic activation and catalytic cycle. Lührmann has received numerous awards, including the Max Planck Research Prize, the well-endowed Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation, the Feldberg Prize, the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine and the Lifetime Achievement in Science Award of the International RNA Society. He is an elected member of EMBO and the German Scientific Research Academy Leopoldina.

IUBMB Lecture

Hydrogen sulfide: an endogenous gasotransmitter with diverse biological roles ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer

Csaba Szabo

Csaba Szabo

University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA 

Csaba Szabo is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of oxidative and nitrosative stress, gaseous transmitters, cell death, cell dysfunction, cardiovascular, and inflammatory mechanisms. In the mid 1990s he pioneered the concept that identified the pathogenetic role of the nuclear enzyme PARP in promoting cell necrosis, and its roles in cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. His applied research and development work in this area led to novel drug candidates that have progressed into clinical trials. Over the last decade, he has developed a significant track record in the biology of hydrogen sulfide, where he has identified multiple regulatory roles of this mediator in angiogenesis, reperfusion injury and cancer. Csaba Szabo has published over 500 original research articles, and, with a H-index of 125, and with total citations over 60,000, he has been listed as one of the 10 most cited pharmacologists in the world for the last decade. He has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1995. Currently at the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Csaba Szabo leads a multidisciplinary team of investigators with expertise in molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, physiology, pathophysiology, medicinal chemistry and translational science. He has received numerous awards, including the Novartis Award of the British Pharmacological Society, the Dennis Gabor Innovation Award, the Texas Star Award and the Pharmacia-ASPET Award for Experimental Therapeutics.

PABMB Lecture

Imaging phagocytosis: receptors, integrins and the cytoskeleton

Sergio Grinstein

Sergio Grinstein

Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada 

Sergio Grinstein completed his PhD in 1976 at the Centro de Investigacion, in Mexico City. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, followed by a year in the Department of Biochemistry at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He is currently working at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and has been Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto since 1988. Sergio Grinstein has devoted his career to investigate two areas: a) the regulation of intracellular pH and b) the innate immune response, with particular emphasis on the molecular basis of phagocytosis. His laboratory has made progress in both areas by combining novel fluorescent probes targeted to defined subcellular compartments with advanced imaging methods. Together, these approaches have enabled the detection, tracking and quantification of specific ions and signaling molecules, contributing to our understanding of organellar ionic homeostasis and of the molecular basis of phagosome formation and maturation. Sergio Grinstein was an International Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a recipient of the Medical Research Council Distinguished Scientist Award and of the Michael Smith Award of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

EMBO Lecture

Molecular mechanisms underlying brain wiring and social behaviour

Claudia Bagni

Claudia Bagni

Department of Fundamental Neuroscience, University of  Lausanne, Switzerland  

Claudia Bagni, Full Professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland & University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy, has a long-lasting interest in the molecular and cellular events underlying intellectual disabilities. She received her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Rome Tor Vergata. After postdoctoral positions at the CNRS in Toulouse (France), Harvard University (USA) and EMBL (Germany), she established her laboratory as assistant professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, to continue as full professor and group leader at the KUniversity of Leuven –VIB, Belgium. Since 2016 she became the Director of the Department of Fundamental Neurosciences at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her research group uses fly and mouse models to understand the molecular and cellular events regulating synapse physiology and pathology with a specific interest for synaptopathies such as Fragile X Syndrome, Autism and Schizophrenia in which the recurring aspect is the dysregulation of the synaptic proteome. Her ultimate goal is to understand how RNA metabolism, underlying brain wiring and synaptic plasticity, orchestrates different types of behavior. She is an EMBO member and received national and international awards, including the UCB Award in 2014 and the Solvay Price in 2016 by the Queen Elisabeth Medical Foundation for Neuroscience.

Closing Plenary Lecture

Termination of translation in bacteria and eukaryotes

Venki Ramakrishnan

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK

Venki Ramakrishnan has a long-standing interest in ribosome structure and function. In 2000, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its complexes with ligands and antibiotics. This work has led to insights into how the ribosome “reads” the genetic code, as well as into various aspects of antibiotic function. In the last few years, Ramakrishan’s lab has determined the high-resolution structures of functional complexes of the entire ribosome at various stages along the translational pathway, which has led to insights into its role in protein synthesis during decoding, peptidyl transfer, translocation and termination. More recently his laboratory has been applying cryoelectron microscopy to study eukaryotic and mitochondrial translation. Since 1999, he has been on the scientific staff of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.


FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award Lecture

This additional plenary lecture is expected to be announced in early 2019, following the selection of the 2019 award winner.

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