2017 JBS Haldane Lecture
Winner: Professor Enrico Coen (John Innes Institute, Norwich)
Enrico Coen is a plant developmental geneticist who is fascinated by how patterns of gene activity can lead to the generation of tissue shapes, like petals, wings or hearts. Working together with computer scientists and mathematicians he arrived at simple and testable hypotheses for the genetic control of shape formation.
A key concept to emerge was the central role that tissue polarity plays in defining local orientations of growth, and thus the final shape that emerges. Based on this notion he has demonstrated how even very complex shapes, like that of the snapdragon flower, can be explained by relatively simple rules. The breadth of his approach is illustrated by his books The Art of Genes and Cells to Civilizations (shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society popular science book prize) in which he shows how a common set of principles may underlie biological transformations from evolution and development to learning and cultural change. The books illustrate Coen's drive to integrate ideas across disciplines and to communicate science to a broad audience. In recognition of his work, Coen was awarded the Croonian Medal of the Royal Society this year.
Winner: Dr Petra Hajkova
(MRC Clinical Sciences Centre , London | Imperial College London, Faculty of Medicine)
Petra Hajkova is the head of the Reprogramming and Chromatin Laboratory at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London and a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. Her work focuses on the elucidation of molecular mechanisms implicated in the erasure of epigenetic information during epigenetic reprogramming in vivo (http://csc.mrc.ac.uk/research-group/reprogramming-and-chromatin/).
Following her Masters studies at the Charles University in Prague and PhD studies at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Petra joined the laboratory of Prof. Azim Surani in Cambridge as a postdoctoral fellow to investigate the processes of epigenetic reprogramming in vivo. In 2009 Petra established an independent laboratory at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London where she has been continuing her work on the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming using both genetic and biochemical approaches.
Petra is a member of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme and a recipient of the ERC Consolidator Grant. She has been selected as a RISE1 member of the EpigeneSys (EU FP7) network and an associated member of the EuroSyStem network.
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