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Confirmed Speakers for 2014:


Key Note Speaker:

Harald zur Hausen (DKFZ, Heidelberg, Germany)

Harald zur Hausen was awarded one half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the year 2008 for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer.

He proved that 70 % of cervical cancer, the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, is actually caused due to Human papilloma virus (HPV) type 16 & 18 instead of previously thought herpes simplex virus type 2. A vaccine for the same was developed soon after and is currently available in the market.

He has been the chairman of the board of German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg for almost 20 years until 2003 and was also the chief editor of the International Journal of Cancer.

He completed his studies in medicine in Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf after which he did his postdoctoral research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 1969, he came back to Germany and started his own group at the Institute of Virology in University of Würzburg. But his research in the field of cervical cancer began only after he moved to Erlangen-Nürnburg where he was appointed the chairman of the Institute of Clinical Virology in 1972. In 1977, he again moved to the University of Freiburg where he continued his research eventually leading to his milestone discovery.


1. Cellular Processes

Marina Chekulaeva (Max-Delbrück-Centrum, Berlin)

Marina Chekulaeva did her PhD at the EMBL Heidelberg under the supervision of Anne Ephrussi and her Postdoc in the lab of Witold Filipowicz at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland. Since October 2012 she is group leader at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin.

During her predoctoral studies she obtained a fellowship from the Louis-Jeantet Foundation, as Postdoc she was supported from the Engelhorn Stiftung, the Human Frontier Science Program and the EMBO.

In her lab the main research focus lies on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate mRNA translation, localization and stability as well as the role of non-coding RNAs in these processes. Up to 90% of human DNA is estimated to be transcribed into non-coding RNAs that are not translated into proteins, so a particular research interest concerns the mechanisms of miRNAs that function in transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression.


Patrick Cramer (LMU, Germany)

Patrick Cramer did his PhD at the EMBL Grenoble in the lab of CW Müller. Then he worked in the lab of RD Kornberg (Stanford University, USA) as a postdoctoral fellow.

In 2006, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which is the highest honor awarded in German research. In 2009 he received the Ernst Jung Prize and since 2010 he is a member of the Max Planck Society.

Currently he is the director of the Gene Center and the Department of Biochemistry of the Ludwig-Maximillians-University of Munich. In his lab, structural biology and complementary functional assays are used to elucidate the mechanisms of gene transcription in eukaryotic cells. Furthermore, he is interested in understanding the mechanisms determining mRNA levels in the cell. His lab now also applies functional genomics techniques to map protein-DNA and protein-RNA landscapes in the cell and to determine changes in the transcriptome. This appraoch contributes to the development of the new field of molecular systems biology.


Christiane Ritter (Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany)

Christiane Ritter studied biochemistry at the University of Hannover (1992-1997). Since her diploma thesis at the University of Zurich, she is interested in the molecular interactions that play a role during the folding and misfolding of proteins. In her Ph.D. thesis at the Swiss Technical University (ETH) in Zurich, she analyzed how cellular folding sensors can recognize structural defects in newly synthesized glycoproteins (1997-2002).

Afterwards, she moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, USA, where she developed an NMR-based approach to determine the structural basis of function and infectivity of a fungal prion.

Since 2007, she is head of the junior research group „macromolecular interactions“. 2009 she was appointed professor for biophysics and NMR-based infection research at the Technical University of Braunschweig. Christiane Ritter is interested in inter-disciplinary activities and is member of the German Young Academy (Jungen Akademie an der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Deutschen Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina).


2. Immunity & Inflammation

Stefano Casola (EIO Milano, Italy)

Stefano Casola received his MD degree in 1993 and his PhD degree in 1999 from the University Federico II of Naples, Italy. After a post-doctoral experience in the laboratory of Klaus Rajewsky, at the Institute of Genetics, Cologne, Germany, he became Junior Investigator at the CBR Institute for Biomedical Research and Instructor in Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. Since 2006, he is a group leader at IFOM, the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology Foundation in Milan, Italy.

Casolas main research interest is to decipher the genetic and epigenetic bases of B-cell development, with a particular emphasis given to the understanding of the mechanisms controlling B cell adaptive immunity. Another major focus of Casolas work is the dissection of the molecular mechanisms underlying B-cell lymphomagenesis.

To address these questions the unit led by Casola has developed over the years a number of conditional mouse strains allowing cell-type, stage-specific and inducible gene expression or inactivation. Moreover, dr. Casola has recently established a system to perform in vivo genome-wide mutagenesis screens directed to identify novel lymphoma determinants.

Casola is recipient of the Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation Career Development Award.


John van der Oost (University of Wageningen, Netherlands)

John van der Oost received his PhD 1989 at the Department of Molecular Cell Biology of the Free University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). During his postdoc time he worked at Helsinki University (Finland) as well as at the EMBL in Heidelberg (Germany) before he returned back to Amsterdam on a fellowship of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

In 1995 he moved to the Wageningen University where he was appointed Professor in 2005.

In his work with Bacteria and Archaea, he studied the recently discovered CRISPR-Cas system that allows Prokaryotes to acquire resistance against viruses and plasmids. His work could show that adaptive immunity is not an exclusive feature of complex organisms.


3. Models of Human Diseases

George Kollias (Alexander Fleming BSRC, Greece)

George Kollias is a full member of the Academy of Athens, Professor of Experimental Physiology at the Medical School of the University of Athens and Researcher and Director of the Immunology Division at the Biomedical Sciences Research Center "Alexander Fleming". He received his degree in Biology from the University of Athens, and PhD from the National Hellenic Research Foundation. He performed postdoctoral studies at the National Institute for Medical Research in London and in 1990 he established an independent laboratory at the Hellenic Pasteur Institute. In 2000 he moved to BSRC Fleming where he served as President and Scientific director from 2002-2010. In 2005 he founded the CRO-biotech spin-off company Biomedcode Hellas.

George Kollias has pioneered genetic approaches to study the function of cytokine signaling, with specific focus on Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), in animal models of human diseases. His lab is highly cited for a series of discoveries on molecular and cellular mechanisms driving chronic inflammation and autoimmunity and for proof of principle studies that provided the preclinical rationale and drove the development of the first biological anti-TNF therapies for rheumatoid arthritis in the clinic. He has contributed decisively to the development of major national infrastructures of scientific and technological excellence in Greece and to the support of a new generation of Greek scientists.


Constance Scharff (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

Constance Scharff is a neural and behavioral biologist. Her group researches the cellular and molecular neurobiology of learned behaviors. The major areas of interest are the molecular mechanisms of vocal communication and its disorders, and adult neurogenesis. Other areas of interest include the molecular evolution of gene networks relevant for vocal learning and its disorders, as well as deep homologies in speech/language and animal communication.

Scharff received her PhD from the Rockefeller University, New York, under the supervision of Prof. Fernando Nottebohm. Since 2005, she is head of the Department of Behavioral Biology at the Freie Universität in Berlin. In 2012, she was elected member of the prestigious Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW).


Jernej Ule (UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK)

In 2001, Jernej Ule began his PhD work in Robert Darnell's lab at the Rockefeller University in New York City.

After two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University, he started his research group at the Structural Studies department of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in 2006. In 2013, his group moved to the Department of Molecular Neuroscience at the UCL Institute of Neurology. His group studies the role of protein-RNA and RNA-RNA interactions in the regulation of the mRNA life cycle during brain development or disease.

They developed the individual-nucleotide resolution UV crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (iCLIP) method, which allows to identify protein-RNA interactions in intact cells and tissues. iCLIP enabled to determine the sequence and structural elements that specify the assembly of ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs), and to understand the function and evolution of RNPs. Currently, the group studies how dynamic remodelling of RNPs contributes to neuronal differentiation, and how defective RNPs can lead to neurologic diseases.


Massimo Zeviani (Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Cambridge, UK)

Prof. Massimo Zeviani holds a Medical Research Council (MRC) professorship of Mitochondrial Medicine at the University of Cambridge (UK) and is director of the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge (UK). His group is interested in understanding the pathogenic mechanisms of mitochondrial disorders and the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction in humans. Moreover, the group of Prof. Zeviani develops new strategies to treat mitochondrial diseases.

Massimo Zeviani graduated in Medicine at the University of Padova (Italy) in 1980. He specialized in Endocrinology (1983) at the University of Padova and in Neurology (1989) at the University of Verona. During his this time, he also joined the group of Prof. Salavatore DiMauro at the Neurological Institute of the Columbia University New York (USA). From 1996 to 1997 Prof. Zeviani was director of the Unit of Molecular Medicine at the Children's Hospital "Bambino Gesù" in Rome (Italy) and Consultant at the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza in San Giovanni Rotondo (Foggia, Italy).

In 1997, he obtained his PhD in Genetics from the René Descartes University Paris (France). From 1998 to 2002 Prof. Zeviani was director of the Unit of Biochemistry and Genetics at the Institute of Neurology “Carlo Besta” in Milan (Italy). He was also director of the Unit of Neurogenetics from 2003 to 2013 and director of the Unit of Molecular Medicine from 2011 to 2013 at the same institution.

Prof. Zeviani was honoured with numerous awards. In June 2013 he was awarded with the Grand Prix of the NRJ Foundation on "Genetics of degenerative diseases“. Since January 2013, Prof. Zeviani continues his research at the Mitochondrial Biology Unit.



4. Tissue Development

Kevin Eggan (Harvard, US)

Eggan received his PhD in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002 shortly after Ian Wilmut’s clone sheep “Dolly” was introduced to public. Already there, he began to explore these newly discovered processes of cloning, stem cells and embryonic development in the lab of the famous geneticist Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch.

In his post-doctoral period, he continued this scientific focus in a collaborative study with Dr. Richard Axel, a Nobel Prize–winning scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2005, he moved to Harvard University as an Assistant Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology, subsequently advancing to the position of a Principal Investigator in the Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). Moreover, in 2009 he became an Associate Professor and later on in 2012 a tenured Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. In 2009, he also became an Early Career Scientist with Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Ever since, his current scientific studies focus on elucidating pathomechanisms of diseases such as ALS and possible therapeutic applications obtained during his research in stem cell biology. He published several papers in high-ranking journals significantly impacting the stem cell community. His pioneering studies were rewarded by a number of high profile awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2006.


Ian Macara (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, US)

Ian Macara received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Sheffield (UK) and pursued his postdoctoral training with Dr. Lewis Cantley at Harvard University.

He has held faculty positions at Rochester University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Virginia, where he received a Distinguished Scientist award and became a Harrison Distinguished Professor of Microbiology.

He is currently a Louise McGavock Professor and the Chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. He is on the editorial board of J. Cell Biology and Current Opinions in Cell Biology, and is a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the NCI.

Ian Macara is interested in the molecular basis for cell polarity, with an emphasis on apical/basal polarity in epithelial cells. His lab focuses on mammary gland morphogenesis, as well as breast cancer initiation and metastasis, and on the role of septins in cell polarity and in DNA repair. He has also worked on nucleo-cytoplasmic transport and RNA localization.


Christine L. Mummery (University of Leiden, Netherlands)

Christine Mummery studied Biophysics at London University. After her PhD, she joined the Hubrecht Institute (Utrecht) as a Royal Society postdoctoral fellow, eventually becoming group leader there and in 2002 being appointed to a professorship at the Interuniversity Cardiology of the Netherlands (ICIN) at the University Medical Centre Utrecht.

In 2007, she was a joint Harvard Stem Cell Institute/Radcliffe fellow at Harvard and Mass General Hospital at the time the first “induced pluripotent stem cells“ (iPSC) were generated. Her research has largely dealt with murine cardiovascular development and the role of growth factors. The emergence of iPSC strengthened her interest in development and application of both human and mouse stem cells in the medical context making her the first to generate iPSC lines in the Netherlands.

In 2008, she became Professor of Developmental Biology at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and Head of Department in the following year. Here, her scientific focus is on stem cell-based modelling of cardiovascular development and disease, with view to assessing potential use in drug discovery and pharmacological safety screening. She initiated studies on directed differentiation and characterisation of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes and vascular cells, and was among the first to inject these into mouse hearts and to examine their effect on myocardial infarction. Her pioneering research has been rewarded by publications and editorial board memberships of high-ranking journals and participation as board member in various scientific committees (e.g. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, ISSCR). In addition, to promote public understanding on stem cells she has co-authored a semi-lay guide to stem cell biology.


[Impressum]