Mendel Medal 2022 – Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter

The Mendel Medal 2022 was jointly awarded to Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter for discovery of genomic imprinting.  Genomic Imprinting has been pivotal for advances in epigenetics and mammalian development, showing that parental chromosomes retain a memory of their origin with heritable DNA methylation tags, which regulate the expression of parental alleles with a role in mammalian development, growth, behaviour and human diseases.  The integration of the imprinting cycle into the mammalian germline cycle allows for epigenetic resetting, including the erasure and reestablishment of imprints.  Genomic imprinting was critical for the evolution of placental viviparity, with a fundamental impact on strategies for mammalian development.

Azim Surani received a PhD at Cambridge University in 1975 under Sir Robert Edwards (Nobel laureate, 2010), working on early mammalian development.  After moving to the Animal Research Station Cambridge in 1979, he continued to investigate if both parental genomes are essential for mammalian development, which led to Genomic Imprinting in 1984.

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Surani was elected Marshall-Walton Professor at Cambridge University in 1992 and subsequently Director of Germline and Epigenetics Research in 2013 at the Gurdon Institute.  He elucidated the hitherto unknown genetic basis for mammalian germ cell specification in mice and humans and the mechanisms regulating the unique germline epigenetic program. He is also studying in vitro models of early human development, the germline and in vitro gametogenesis.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and his awards include the William Bate Hardy Prize, a Royal Medal for mammalian development, Rosenstiel Award for epigenetic regulation of gene expression in mammals, ISSCR McEwen Award for Innovation, and the Canada International Gairdner Award for genomic imprinting and epigenetics.

 

Davor Solter, M.D. (1965), Ph.D. (1971) both from the University of Zagreb, Croatia.  Assistant and Associate Professor in the Departments of Anatomy and Biology, University of Zagreb Medical School 1966-1973.  In 1973 moved to the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia and became Member and Professor in 1981 as well as Wistar Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

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In 1991 he was appointed Member of the Max-Planck Society and Director of the Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg.  From 2008-2014 Research Director, Institute of Medical Biology, A*STAR, Singapore and Professor, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.  Currently Visiting International Professor Siriraj Center for Excellence in Stem Cell Research, Mahidol University Medical School, Bangkok.  He was and is a member of numerous editorial and advisory boards and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, EMBO and Academia Europea.  In 1998 received March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology for pioneering the concept of imprinting, in 2007 Rosenstiel Award (shared with Mary Lyon and Azim Surani) for discovery of imprinting and in 2018 Canada Gairdner International Award for discovery of imprinting

Davor Solter contributed significantly to many areas of mammalian developmental biology, namely: differentiation of germ layers; the role of cell surface molecules in regulating early development; biology and genetics of teratocarcinoma; biology of embryonic stem cells; imprinting and cloning.  His current research interest focuses on genetic and molecular control of genome reprogramming and of activation of the embryonic genome.