Keynote Lectures Detailed Information Print E-mail

Susan Lindquist


Susan Lindquist is a member and former Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which she guided as the Whitehead Genome Center was transformed into the neighbouring Broad Institute. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. She received her Ph.D. in biology from Harvard and was a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society. She was named the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in 1999 at the University of Chicago.


A pioneer in the study of protein folding, she established that protein homeostasis has profound and completely unexpected effects on normal biology and disease. She found that the chaperone Hsp90 potentiates and buffers the effects of genetic variation, fuelling evolutionary mechanisms as diverse as malignant transformation and the emergence of drug resistance. Her work established the molecular basis for protein-based mechanisms of inheritance.


More recently she has built tractable genetic models of complex protein misfolding diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, which are providing new insights on the underlying pathogenic mechanisms. Dr. Lindquist is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Her honours also include the Dickson Prize in Medicine, Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, Centennial Medal of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Otto-Warburg Prize, Genetics Society of America Medal, and FASEB Excellence in Science Award.

Title & synopsis

Lamarck Redux: Prions, Hsp90 and the Inheritance of Environmentally Acquired Traits

Protein-folding mechanisms have profound and unexpected effects on evolutionary processes. Molecular chaperone proteins enable organisms to reveal accumulated-but-hidden genetic variation in times of stress,  or they allow new mutations to produce immediate phenotypes.  These mechanisms provide plausible ways for genetic diversity and fluctuating environments to fuel the pace of evolutionary change. Both processes are also relevant to human disease.




Richard Axel

Columbia University, US

Richard Axel is University Professor and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, US.  He obtained an A.B. from Columbia College and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School.  In earlier studies, Richard Axel and his colleagues, Michael Wigler & Saul Silverstein developed gene transfer techniques that permit the introduction of virtually any gene into any cell.  These studies not only allowed for a novel approach to isolate genes but also provided a detailed analysis of how they worked.  At the same time, these experiments allowed for the production of an increasingly large number of clinically important proteins.  These studies also led to the isolation and functional analysis of a gene for the lymphocyte surface protein, CD4, the cellular receptor for the AIDS virus, HIV.


He then began to apply molecular biology to problems in neuroscience with the expectation that genetics could interface with neuroscience to approach the tenuous relationship between genes, behaviour and perception.  His studies on the logic of the sense of smell revealed over a thousand genes involved in the recognition of odours and provided insight into how genes shape our perception of the sensory environment.


His current work centres on how the recognition of odours is translated into an internal representation of sensory quality in the brain and how this representation leads to meaningful thoughts and behaviour. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his many honours are the Eli Lilly Award in biological chemistry, the Richard Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for distinguished achievement in neuroscience research, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Title & synopsis

Representations of Olfactory Information in Higher Cortical Centres


Sensory information is transmitted to the brain where it must be processed to translate stimulus features into appropriate behavioural output.  In the olfactory system, distributed neural activity in the nose is converted into a segregated map in the olfactory bulb.  We have characterized a neural circuit that conveys olfactory information from the olfactory bulb to piriform cortex and cortical amygdala.  The projections to the amygdala from individual glomeruli are spatially stereotyped, suggesting that this structure may be involved in the generation of innate olfactory behaviours.  In contrast, spatial order in the bulb is discarded in the piriform cortex.  Axons from individual glomeruli project diffusely to the piriform without apparent spatial preference, implicating this structure in learned olfactory behaviour. We have devised an experimental strategy that permits us to ask whether the activation of an arbitrarily chosen subpopulation of neurons in piriform cortex can elicit different behavioural responses dependent upon learning.  These studies demonstrate that the piriform cortex is sufficient to elicit learned behavioural outputs. Moreover our data indicate that piriform cortex does not use spatial order to map either odorant identity or behavioural output.

Louis-Jeantet Prize Lectures

The Louis-Jeantet keynote addresses are supported by a grant from the Louis-Jeantet Foundation and the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine (published by Wiley-Blackwell).


May-Britt Moser

Kavli Institute
for Systems Neuroscience,
Norwegian University of
Science & Technology
, NO

May-Britt Moser is Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and the Centre for the Biology of Memory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Since her group was established in 1996 she has, together with Edvard Moser, studied how spatial location and spatial memory are computed in the brain. Their most noteworthy contribution is probably the discovery of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex in 2005, which points to the entorhinal cortex as a hub for the brain network that makes us find our way. They have shown how a variety of functional cell types in the entorhinal microcircuit contribute to representation of self-location, how the outputs of the circuit are used by memory networks in the hippocampus, and how episodic memories are separated from each other in the early stages of the hippocampal memory storage. Her most recent work has focused on mechanisms of memory retrieval in the hippocampus. She has been awarded the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine together with Edvard Moser and Stefan Jentsch.


Title & synopsis

Grid cells & the brain's representation of space

Grid cells are cells that fire selectively at regularly spaced positions in the environment such that, for each cell, activity is observed only when the animal is at places that together define a repeating triangular pattern. These cells are thought to provide the metric for the brain’s representation of external space. I will discuss the organization of the grid cell network in entorhinal cortex as well as the relationship of grid cells to place cells in the hippocampus.



Stefan Jentsch

Max-Planck Institute
of Biochemistry
, DE

Stefan Jentsch is director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, DE. He obtained his PhD in biology at Free University Berlin and Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and was postdoctoral fellow at MIT, Cambridge, US. After periods at the Friedrich-Miescher Laboratory (Max Planck Society, Tübingen) and the University of Heidelberg (ZMBH), DE, he is since 1998 director of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology. He pioneered studies on protein modifications by ubiquitin and related proteins. Modification of proteins by ubiquitin usually targets the proteins for degradation. However, his research revealed that ubiquitin plays also a crucial role in genome maintenance and DNA repair. More recently, he and his group discovered a ubiquitin/SUMO-controlled mechanism that governs genome stability and mutagenesis. He is an EMBO Member since 1995 and an elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. His honours include the Otto Klung Prize (1992), Leibniz Preis (1993), Otto Bayer Award (1996), Max-Planck Research Award (2003), honorary professorship of Fudan University Shanghai, and the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine together with Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser.


Title & synopsis

Regulatory roles of ubiquitin family proteins


Modifications of proteins by ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like proteins (UBLs) fulfill numerous cellular functions. Stefan Jentsch will discuss examples in DNA repair and RNA splicing.