Plenary Speakers


VIB Center for Brain and Disease Research & KU Leuven Center for Human Genetics, Belgium

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Prof. Stein Aerts has a multidisciplinary background in both bio-engineering and computer science. During his PhD he was trained in bioinformatics, and during his Postdoc he worked on the genomics of gene regulation in the Drosophila eye imaginal disc. Stein now heads the Laboratory of Computational Biology at the VIB Center for Brain & Disease Research and the KU Leuven Department of Human Genetics. His lab focuses on deciphering the genomic regulatory code, using a combination of single-cell and machine-learning approaches. His most recent scientific contributions include new bioinformatics methods for the analysis of single-cell gene regulatory networks, namely SCENIC and cisTopic. Aerts co-founded the Fly Cell Atlas consortium and generated a single-cell atlas of the ageing Drosophila brain ( Stein was awarded the 2017 Prize for Bioinformatics and Computational Science from the Biotech Fund and the 2016 Astrazeneca Foundation Award Bioinformatics.


Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal

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Mónica Bettencourt-Dias is Director of the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência since February 2018. She is also group leader at IGC since 2006. With a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology by the University College London (UK), Mónica also holds a post graduate degree in Science Communication by the Birkbeck College London. She was awarded two grants from the European Research Council in 2010 and 2015 and was also elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO).


Genome Biology Unit, EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany

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Eileen Furlong is head of the Genome Biology department at EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory). The Furlong Lab is an interdisciplinary team that dissects general principles by which developmental enhancers and three-dimensional nuclear organisation function within developmental programs. The group’s research is currently dissecting how the cis-regulatory genome is organised within the nucleus, and how chromatin state and transcription factor occupancy influence this process. They also investigate how natural sequence variation perturbs genome regulation, leading to specific phenotypes. The work combines single-cell genomics, genetics, imaging and computational approaches to understand these processes, including the development of new genomic methods within the context of a multicellular embryo. Eileen is an elected member of EMBO, Academia Europaea and an ERC Advanced investigator.


Laboratory of Genetics, Kyoto University

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Tatsushi Igaki is a Professor in the Graduate School of Biostudies at Kyoto University. His laboratory explores how cells communicate each other to establish and maintain multicellular systems. Clonal analysis, combined with classical genetics and advanced imaging techniques in Drosophila provides the best model system for studying cell-cell communication in living animals. The laboratory focuses on understanding epithelial cell-cell communications such as cell competition and cooperation, which govern tissue growth, homeostasis, and cancer.


MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and Imperial College London, UK

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The Miguel-Aliaga lab explores the plasticity of internal organs, with a major focus on the intestine and its neurons. Their work has revealed new roles for enteric neurons in adaptations to malnutrition and reproduction, and has uncovered sex differences in the intestinal epithelium relevant to whole-body physiology and the plasticity of organ size. Irene Miguel-Aliaga is Professor of Genetics and Physiology at Imperial College London and Programme Leader and Section Chair at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, London. She was elected to the EMBO YIP programme in 2012 and to EMBO in 2017. She has also received an ERC Starting Grant and, more recently, an ERC Advanced Grant.


Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

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John Parsch and his group study the population and evolutionary genetics of Drosophila, with an emphasis on the evolution of gene regulation. They are interested in uncovering the molecular and phenotypic changes that allow Drosophila melanogaster to adapt to new environmental conditions, such as those present in temperate Europe. They are also interested in sex chromosome evolution, sex-biased gene expression, and transcriptional regulation of the X chromosome. Parsch is Professor of Evolutionary and Functional Genomics at The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.


Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA

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The Rubin laboratory develops and applies methods for elucidating the anatomy and functions of neuronal circuits in Drosophila. This work is supported by large collaborative efforts to determine the EM-level connectome of the adult fly brain and to produce tools to allow cell-type-specific expression of exogenous genes. Rubin is a vice-president of HHMI and executive director of its Janelia Research Campus. He is a member of the National Academy of Science (US), the National Academy of Medicine (US), EMBO and a foreign member of the Royal Society (UK).


Frank Schnorrer (FRA)

Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille (IBDM), France

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Frank Schnorrer studied Biochemistry in Tübingen and graduated at the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard studying mechanisms of RNA transport. During his PostDoc with Barry Dickson in Vienna he started to work with muscles and focused on how muscles find their tendon attachments. Frank heads the lab of ‘Muscle Dynamics’ since 2008 at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich and moved 2016 as a senior CNRS group leader to the Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille (IBDM).
The Schnorrer lab is investigating the biomechanics of muscle morphogenesis applying genetics, imaging and biophysical measurements. It is bridging scales from the tissue level of large muscle cells to the structural assembly of micrometer large contractile machines called sarcomeres. The lab proposed a tension-driven self-organisation model of how many sarcomeres assemble into long myofibrils that bridge across muscle cells. To achieve a better molecular understanding of sarcomerogenesis the lab applies novel super-resolution imaging methods and develops molecular tension sensors in muscle in vivo.


Institut Pasteur, Paris, France

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The Schweisguth lab investigates how Notch regulates cells fates in space and time, how patterns emerge during development and how cell fate is coupled with cell polarity and shape changes during epithelial morphogenesis. These questions are addressed in various developmental contexts, notably the developing sensory bristles. While his research is largely observation-driven, his lab is combining imaging, genome engineering and modeling to go beyond observations and decipher the inner logic of these developmental processes. F Schweisguth is currently holding Research Director position at the CNRS, and is heading the CNRS UMR3738 / Dept of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at the Institut Pasteur.


Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany

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Pavel Tomancak studied Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. He then did his PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in the field of Drosophila developmental genetics. During his post-doctoral time at the University of California in Berkeley at the laboratory of Gerald M. Rubin, he established image-based genome scale resources for patterns of gene expression in Drosophila embryos. Since 2005 he leads an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden where he became senior research group leader in 2013.
His laboratory continues to study patterns of gene expression during development by combining molecular, imaging and image analysis techniques. The group has lead a significant technological development aiming towards more complete quantitative description of gene expression patterns using light sheet microscopy. The emphasis on open access resulted in establishment of major resources such as OpenSPIM ( and Fiji ( The Tomancak lab is expanding the systematic analysis of gene expression patterns to other Drosophila tissues and employing the comparative approach in other Drosophilids and invertebrate species.


Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

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Mariana Federica Wolfner is Cornell University’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics. Her lab is interested in the actions and evolution of the molecules, genes, and physiology that underlie fertility. She and her mentees and collaborators have dissected how males, via their seminal proteins, actively modulate the physiology and behavior of mated female Diptera, with impacts on the evolution of those traits. Her lab and collaborators also uncovered molecular mechanisms that ‘activate’ Drosophila eggs to initiate embryogenesis. Mariana, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was recently honored to receive the 2018 GSA Medal from the Genetics Society of America and the 2017 Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology from the Entomological Society of America.


Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, USA

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How is sensory information processed by neural circuits and used to select specific motor outputs? How are these functions of neural circuits encoded in the genome? These are the basic questions motivating our research. We address these questions by studying Drosophila larvae that is capable of complex behavior and yet simple enough to allow systematic genetic manipulation of all parts of the neural circuitry.