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 a Society scientific meeting during the coming year.

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.