Rise of the Micromachines: Biology on the Small Scale
Wnt/Frizzled Planar Cell Polarity signaling in development and disease
The art of building small
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Dan S. Tawfik
How do proteins evolve
The Internet of Animals
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Andrew deMello (born March 30, 1970) is an British chemist and currently Professor of Biochemical Engineering at ETH Zürich. He obtained a 1st Class Degree in Chemistry and PhD in Molecular Photophysics from Imperial College London in 1995 and subsequently held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to his arrival in Zürich he was Professor of Chemical Nanosciences and Head of the Nanostructured Materials and Devices Section in the Chemistry Department at Imperial College London.
His group is engaged in a wide range of activities in the general area of microfluidics and nanoscale science. Primary specialisations include the development of microfluidic devices for high-throughput biological experimentation, ultra-sensitive optical detection techniques and point-of-care diagnostics. A key focus of recent research efforts has been the development of droplet-based microfluidic systems for high-throughput biology and the introduction of stroboscopic imaging flow cytometry for high resolution imaging of biological cells at throughputs approaching half a million cells per second.
Science originating from the deMello group has been recognized through a number of international awards, including the Clifford Paterson Medal from The Royal Society of Great Britain, the Corday Morgan Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Pioneers of Miniaturization Award and the Advances in Measurement Science Lectureship from the American Chemical Society.
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Marek Mlodzik, PhD is the Lillian and Henry M. Stratton Professor and Chairman of the Dept of Cell, Developmental, and Regenerative Biology, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is also Professor in the Depts of Oncological Sciences and Ophthalmology, and Full Member of the Black Family Stem Cell Institute, Mindich Child Health and Development Institute, Tisch Cancer Institute, and Friedman Brain Institute
Marek Mlodzik is a native of Prague, Czech Republic. After completing his undergraduate and PhD work at the University of Basel, he has been interested in the molecular basis of intercellular communication and signaling since his postdoctoral studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He initiated his independent research when appointed Group Leader at the EMBL in 1991. Using the Drosophila model system, he has made seminal contributions to several signaling pathways, including EGFR-Ras, Notch, BMP/TGFb and the Wnt signaling pathways. In 2000, he moved to a Professor position at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and became in 2007 the Lillian and Henry M. Stratton Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cell, Developmental, and Regenerative Biology. He has served as Chairman of the department since its beginning and built it into a diverse assembly of >20 independent and productive research groups (and about 200 persons in total). His work is also closely associated with the Black Family Stem Cell Institute and the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai.
Current Research Focus
In the past 20 years his work focused on the molecular mechanisms of Wnt/PCP (Planar Cell Polarity)-signaling and how this regulates cell polarity and cell migration in development and disease. Most recently the research focus also addresses the role of ciliary proteins in non-ciliated contexts, and the role of the ciliary transport complex (IFT-A) in the cytoplasm and in nuclear translocation of b-catenin. His research studies also the mechanisms of how the Wnt and Notch signaling pathways interact in normal organogenesis and patterning and disease contexts, including cancer, neural tube closure defects, and ciliopathies. The Wnt/PCP pathway and Wnt signaling in general are also critical in many stem cell niche interactions and stem cell maintenance. The Notch signaling pathway shares many of these functions during tissue regeneration and homeostasis. The lab uses primarily the Drosophila model for in vivo studies and mammalian cell based work for functional biochemical assays. The Mlodzik lab is the leader in Wnt-PCP signaling.
Ongoing research interests include:
- Investigating the regulatory interactions among the core Wnt/PCP factors and associated cell adhesion behavior
- Dissecting the process of nuclear translocation of b-catenin in canonical Wnt-signaling
- Modeling the complex functional behavior of neural tube closure defect patients in PCP establishment in Drosophila
- Understanding novel regulatory inputs to Notch signaling and associated transcriptional and cytoskeletal read-outs
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Dan Tawfik received his BSc in chemistry and biochemistry (1988) and MSc in biotechnology (1990) from the Hebrew University, and his PhD from the Weizmann Institute (1995). After completing two years of postdoctoral research at Cambridge University and the MRC Centre for Protein Engineering (UK), from 1997 to 2001, he was a senior research fellow at Sidney Sussex College and at the MRC Centre for Protein Engineering, where he was appointed group leader in chemical biology in 1999. He joined the Weizmann Institute faculty in 2001, and holds the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Professional Chair.
Proteins, and especially enzymes – Nature’s workhorses, are the primary focus of Prof. Tawfik’s research. Foremost, he seeks to answer the following questions: Although we largely lack the “fossils” of the protein world, can we trace back the way today’s enzymes have evolved? Can this research help us create “designer” enzymes for a variety of applications? In experimental work that lies at the interface of chemistry and biology, Prof. Tawfik has developed a range of experimental systems that can reproduce protein evolution in the laboratory and in real time. Besides shedding light on evolutionary processes, including how the very first proteins emerged about 3.8 billion years ago, his research is leading to new, tailor-made proteins with potential uses such as degrading toxic chemicals.
His awards and fellowships include the EMET Prize in Life Sciences (2020), ECI Enzyme Engineering Award (2015), the Teva Award for Excellence in Memory of Eli Hurvitz (2013), the Weizmann Prize from the Tel Aviv municipality (2007), the Wolgin Prize for Scientific Excellence (2007), the Alon Fellowship in 2001, and the Sir Charles Clore Prize for Outstanding Appointment as a Senior Scientist in 2000. In 2009, he was elected as an EMBO member.
Dan has two children and enjoys mountain and rock climbing when he is not in the laboratory.
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Martin Wikelski - Director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell; Professor in Biology at the University of Konstanz, Germany
Study of Zoology at the LMU in Munich (1985-1991). PhD at the University of Bielefeld (1994). Postdoc at the University of Washington, Seattle (1995-1998) and at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (1996-1998). Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1998-2000) and at Princeton University (2000-2005); then Associate Professor (2005-2008) in Princeton. Since December 2007 Wikelski is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell (which became the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour in 2019). He was Full Professor at the University of Konstanz (2007-2016) and is Honorary Professor since 2016.
Martin Wikelski is Niko-Tinbergen Laureate of the German Ethological Society (1998) and Bartholomew Laureate of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (2000). In 2008 the National Geographic Society honored him as “Emerging Explorer”, and in 2010 he was designated “Adventurer of the Year” for his leading contribution to the research of global animal migration. He became elected member of the Leopoldina - German national science academy in 2014 and was awarded with the Max Planck Research Award in 2016.