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Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Prof Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Irene Miguel-Aliaga is Professor of Genetics and Physiology at Imperial College London, and MRC Investigator at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences.

Irene has an interest in the crosstalk between organs – in particular, how and why the intestine communicates with other organs, such as the brain.  Her lab was one of the first to tackle the study of the brain-gut axis using the powerful genetics of Drosophila: work that they have now extended to mouse and human models.

Irene and her team discovered that the brain-gut axes of males and females are very different, and that these intestinal sex differences impact food intake, gamete production and tumour susceptibility.  They have also investigated how the intestine senses nutrients, revealing unexpected
roles for metal sensing in the regulation of feeding and growth.

Irene trained as a biochemist in Barcelona, Spain and she received her PhD in Genetics from the University of Oxford (UK).  She investigated how neurons develop during postdoctoral work at Harvard (USA), Linköping University (Sweden) and NIMR (now Crick Institute, UK).

Irene was the recipient of an ERC Starting Grant and currently holds an ERC Advanced Grant.  She was elected to the EMBO YIP programme in 2012, to EMBO in 2017 and to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2019.  She was also awarded a Suffrage Science Women in Science award in 2018.

Irene will receive her medal at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.


Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati

Sam Behjati is a Group Leader / Wellcome Intermediate Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.  Originally from Germany, he read medicine at the University of Oxford.  Subsequently he underwent academic clinical training in London and obtained his PhD from Cambridge.  He started his current position at Sanger in October 2018.

Sam’s research focuses on the origins of childhood cancer.  In one line of enquiry, he uses somatic mutations as barcodes of human development which enable the reconstruction of the embryology of tissues.

Sam has applied this approach to study normal tissue development, most notably, of the placenta, and to childhood cancers.  For example, in Wilms tumour, his analyses showed that many seemingly sporadic tumours arose from developmentally acquired clonal expansions.  In another line of research, Sam studies single childhood cancer cells, through the direct comparison of cancer with developmental cells, to place childhood cancers on trajectories of human development.

Sam’s work has been recognised by several awards such as the Pezcoller Foundation-EACR Rising Star Award, the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award of the St Baldrick’s Foundation and the Science / SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. He is an EMBO Young Investigator and has recently been awarded a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship.

The Genetics Society is delighted to add to Sam’s accolade by awarding the 2022 Balfour lecture.  Sam will deliver his lecture at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.


Genetics Society Medal 2022 – Prof Robin Lovell-Badge

The 2022 Genetics Society medal is awarded to Robin Lovell-Badge.  Robin will receive his Medal at the Society autumn conference, Genetics of Reproduction, on 18th November 2022 at the Royal Society, London.

Robin Lovell-Badge is a senior group leader and head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute.

He obtained his PhD in embryology at University College London (UCL) in 1978, carrying out mouse stem cell and embryo research with Martin Evans.  It was during his postdoc in the Genetics Department at the University of Cambridge when Robin began to consider genetic approaches.  An EMBO Long Term Fellowship in Paris allowed him to develop methods for studying gene function and regulation, via embryonic stem cells and transgenic mice.  He then established his independent laboratory in 1982 at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Mammalian Development Unit,  UCL, directed by Anne McLaren. It was here that Robin began to study sex determination, combining embryology with molecular genetics and mutation studies in the mouse to test and find candidates for the Y-linked testis determining gene.  In 1988 he moved to the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (which was incorporated into the Francis Crick Institute in 2016), becoming Head of Division in 1993.

It was in 1990, in collaboration with Peter Goodfellow’s lab, that Robin identified Sry/SRY as a new candidate for the testis determining gene in mice and humans.  He went on to prove that Sry was the gene and the only one on the Y chromosome required to initiate testis rather than ovary differentiation.  Subsequent work by Robin’s lab and others have identified and tested the function of many other relevant genes and established many of the genetic pathways involved in the initiation and maintenance of gonadal sex.

At the same time as finding Sry/SRY, Robin’s lab also discovered the first members of the Sox gene family.  He went on to show, using genetic methods, the importance of Sox2 for pluripotency in the early embryo, and for Sox1, Sox2, Sox3 and Sox9 for the development of the central nervous system, the pituitary, and for stem cells in these systems.  In addition to being of fundamental interest, Robin’s work is of clinical relevance, providing better diagnosis and understanding of the etiology of disorders of sex differentiation and of disorders affecting the CNS and pituitary.

Robin was elected a member of EMBO (1993), a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999), the Royal Society (2001), the Royal Society of Arts (2002), the Royal Society of Biology (2011), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2018), and the Galton Institute (2018).  He has received the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (1995), the Amory Prize (1996), the Feldberg Foundation Prize (2008), the Waddington Medal of the British Society for Developmental Biology (2010), and the ISSCR Public Service Award (2021).  He was awarded a CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

Robin was a Distinguished and is now a Special Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong (where he has also been a visiting professor since 1996); an Honorary Professor at UCL, (since 2003), and a Visiting Professor at King’s College London (since 2016). He is President of the Institute of Animal Technologists.

Robin is also very active in both public engagement and policy work, notably around stem cells, genetics, human embryo and animal research, and in ways science is regulated and disseminated.


JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Prof Mike Fay

The Genetics Society is delighted to announce Professor Mike Fay, Kew Gardens, as the winner of the 2022 JBS Haldane award.

Professor Fay graduated from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in Genetics and Plant Breeding, and then carried out research on genetic resources in clover for his PhD at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (now Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University).  After two years working for the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International as a Scientific Information Officer, he moved to Kew (where he still works) in 1986, as Head of the Micropropagation Unit.  In 1995, Mike established a program in Conservation Genetics in the Jodrell Laboratory.  Subsequently, he became Head of Genetics, and is now Senior Research Leader in Conservation Genetics and Molecular Ecology.

For many years, Mike’s research has focused on the application of genetic and other data in the formulation of conservation management plans, working extensively with Natural England and other organisations.  Major projects include population genetics of orchids and studies of polyploidy, hybridization and apomixis in endemic whitebeams and rowans (Sorbus species).

Mike has published > 220 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and he is joint author of Plant of the World – An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Vascular Plants (2017).  He has been Chair of the Orchid Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN since 2006 and Chief Editor of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society since 2008.

Mike’s interest in genetics extends beyond his professional life, and he is a keen amateur genealogist.

Awards:

  • Bicentenary Medal, Linnean Society, 2000
  • Individual Merit Promotion, 2011 (to date)
  • Adjunct Professorship, University of Western Australia, 2016 (to date)

Professor Fay will present the JBS Haldane Lecture on the 17th November at the Royal Institute, London.


Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2021 – Robert Hillary

I am delighted to have received the Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize.  I want to extend my gratitude to the Genetics Society and the University of Birmingham.  I would also like to thank my brilliant PhD supervisors Dr Riccardo Marioni, Dr Kathryn Evans, Prof Craig Ritchie, Prof Ian Deary and thesis chair Prof Caroline Hayward who nominated me for this award.  I feel very fortunate to have had such supportive supervisors and mentors to guide me through my PhD and beyond.

I embarked on a Wellcome-funded PhD programme in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.  My PhD thesis was titled: ‘A multi-omics approach to understand the role of plasma proteins in cognitive ageing and dementia’.  The overarching aim of my work was to determine whether blood-based molecular markers can predict dementia risk.  First, I performed genome- and epigenome-wide association studies on the levels of over 400 blood proteins measured in either The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 or Generation Scotland.  I applied these data to causal analysis methods and found a small number of blood proteins whose levels might causally associate with dementia risk.  Second, I showed that an existing blood-based predictor of mortality termed ‘DNAm GrimAge’ robustly associated with multiple measures of brain health but did not associate with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer, Edinburgh and hope to pursue a fellowship to continue my work in molecular epidemiology and common disease.


2022 Awards

Image: Frank Hailer

Mendel Medal 2022 – Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter

JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Dr Mike Fay, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Genetics Society Medal 2022 – Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Francis Crick Institute, London

Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga, MRC LMS

Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2020/21 – Dr Robert Hillary, University of Edinburgh