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Plenary Lectures

FEBS Sir Hans Krebs Lecture – Opening Plenary Lecture

Diet, metabolism and cancer progression

Karen Vousden

The Francis Crick Institute, London, UK

Karen Vousden received her PhD from the University of London, and following postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Cancer Research, UK and National Cancer Institute (NCI), USA, she returned to London to establish a research group at the Ludwig Institute. Returning to the USA, she was Chief of the Regulation of Cell Growth Laboratory at the NCI before coming back to the UK to take on the role of Director of the CRUK Beatson Institute in Glasgow. In 2017, she moved her research group to the Francis Crick Institute in London and served as Chief Scientist for Cancer Research UK from 2016 to 2022. Karen’s research has made contributions to our understanding of how the tumour suppressor protein p53 is regulated and the functions of p53 that contribute to its ability to control cancer progression. During these studies, her group revealed an unexpected ability of p53 to help cells adapt and survive under transient periods of nutrient starvation. This work led to a more general investigation of cancer cell metabolism, focused on exploring the role of oxidative stress and serine metabolism in cancer development and metastatic progression. Karen is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences. She is a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Association of Cancer Research. Her awards include the Tenovus Gold Medal, the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Medal, the Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Mike Price Gold Medal from the EACR, the Clifford Prize for Cancer Research and the Lombroso Award. In 2010 she was appointed a Commander of the British Empire for services to clinical science.

FEBS Datta Lecture

RNA modifications and the genetic code

Eric Westhof

University of Strasbourg, France

Eric Westhof is Emeritus Professor of Structural Biochemistry at theInstitute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Strasbourg, France. His research activities are centered on the relationships between sequences, structural architectures, evolution and functions of RNA molecules and their complexes. The tools used are X-ray crystallography, bioinformatics, sequence comparisons, three-dimensional modelling, and molecular dynamics simulations. The aims are the understanding of RNA evolution and of the continued interplay between RNA sequence variations, structure and activity. His editing activities focus on nucleic acids, and he is an editor of RNA, Nucleic Acids Research, Journal of Molecular Recognition and Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. He was Vice-President for research and doctoral studies of the University of Strasbourg between 2007 and 2012. He has also been president of the French Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SFBBM) and of the International RNA Society. He is a member of EMBO, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher LEOPOLDINA, Academia Europaea and the French Académie des Sciences. 

Molecular Oncology Lecture

Targeting KRAS mutant cancers: light at the end of the tunnel

Mariano Barbacid

Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO), Madrid, Spain

After a PhD from Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain and training as a postdoctoral fellow at the US National Cancer Institute, Mariano Barbacid started his own research group in 1978 to study the molecular events responsible for the development of human tumours. His work led in 1982 to the isolation of the first human oncogene, HRAS, and the identification of the first mutation associated with the development of human cancer. These findings, also made independently by two other groups, have been seminal to establish the molecular bases of human cancer.  He is also credited with the isolation of the TRK oncogene from a colon carcinoma, leading the Barbacid group to identify in 1991 the TRK family of tyrosine protein kinase receptors as the functional receptors for the NGF family of neurotrophins.  In 1988, he joined Bristol Myers-Squibb where he became Vice President, Oncology Drug Discovery. In this position, he pioneered the development of what is now known as “targeted therapies”. In 1998, he returned to Madrid to create and direct the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO). In 2011, he stepped down as CNIO Director to focus on his long-standing interests in identifying therapeutic strategies against KRAS mutant tumors, a mutation that accounts for more than 20% of all human cancers. Mariano was inducted to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2012 and in 2014 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research. His work has been recognized by several domestic and international awards including the Steiner Prize (Bern, 1988), Ipsen Prize (Paris, 1994), Brupbaher Cancer Research Prize (Zurich, 2005), the Medal of Honor of the International Agency for Cancer Research (Lyon, 2007) and the Burkitt Medal (Dublin, 2017). In 2011, he received an Endowed Chair from the AXA Research Fund (Paris). 

EMBO Lecture

Genome regulation during developmental transitions: new views of old questions

Eileen Furlong

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany

Eileen Furlong is head of the Genome Biology department at EMBL.  After obtaining her PhD at University College Dublin, Ireland, she moved to Stanford University, USA for her postdoc in developmental biology. She then started her own group at EMBL and has been head of department since 2009. She is known for her work in uncovering different mechanisms of genome regulation, including understanding how developmental enhancers function and are organized in the compact three-dimensional nucleus to regulate developmental programs. Her research has pioneered the development of genomics methods for use in developing embryos, which has uncovered many new features of how enhancers are used and drive embryonic development. Her group uses interdisciplinary approaches combining genetics, genomics, imaging and computational approaches to understand these processes, including the development of new genomic methods within the context of a multicellular embryo. She has received several awards, including the 2022 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. Eileen is an ERC advanced investigator, an elected member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

FEBS Special Lecture

Ribosome and the protein folding code of translation

Marina Rodnina

Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Göttingen, Germany

Marina Rodnina is a biochemist and biophysicist recognized for her work on the function of the ribosome. Her group pioneered the use of kinetic and fluorescence methods in conjunction with quantitative biochemistry to solve the mechanisms of translation. After receiving her PhD at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics of the Ukrainian Academy of Science, Kiev in 1989, Marina was Alexander von Humboldt Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University Witten-Herdecke, Germany, where she obtained her Habilitation in 1998 and became a professor and chair of the Institute for Physical Chemistry in 2000. Since 2008 she has been the head of the Department of Physical Biochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen, Germany. Marina has received several awards, including the Hans Neurath Award of the Protein Society, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the Otto Warburg Medal, and Albrecht Kossel Prize. She is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Academia Europaea, the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, and EMBO. She is an honorary professor at the University of Göttingen.

FEBS Theodor Bücher Lecture 

Systematic Cell Biology – Using high throughput screens to reveal the unknown unknowns 

Maya Schuldiner

Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

After receiving a PhD in genetics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2003, Maya Schuldiner conducted postdoctoral research in the Laboratory of Jonathan Weissman at the University of California in San Francisco, USA from 2003 until 2008, when she joined the faculty of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. She has been a tenured associate professor since 2015 at the department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science and a Full Professor since 2020. Maya serves as a reviewing editor in eLife and is a member of the editorial board of Life Science Alliance, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, BBA-Molecular Cell Research, PLoS Biology and Science Open. Maya received a Human Frontiers Science Program Career Development Award in 2008 and became a member of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme in 2011 and of EMBO in 2017. She received three consecutive European Research Council grants (StG in 2010, CoG in 2015 and in 2020). Maja is also the recipient of the FEBS Anniversary and National prizes (2015, 2017) and the EMBO Gold Medal award (2017). She was elected a member of Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences. Maya currently holds the Dr. Omenn and Martha Darling Professorial Chair in Molecular Genetics. Maya's research focuses on uncovering functions for uncharacterized proteins using the 'baker's yeast' as a central eukaryotic model. She does this by using high content screening approaches coupled with dedicated follow-ups and with an interest on processes that occur inside organelles. 

FEBS Open Bio Lecture

Molecular mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter release and its regulation

Jose Rizo-Rey

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, USA

Josep Rizo (Jose Rizo-Rey) was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1959. He received his PhD in 1988 in Organic Chemistry from the University of Barcelona, working on methodology to analyze solid supports by gel-phase 13C NMR spectroscopy and on development of polar protecting groups for peptide synthesis. A strong interest in quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics led him to simultaneously obtain a second BSc degree, in theoretical physics, from the same University (1988). In 1989 he moved to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSW), USA, to perform postdoctoral research on peptide and protein structure, as well as protein folding, using NMR spectroscopy, molecular dynamics simulations and other biophysical techniques. He established his independent research group in 1995 at UTSW and became full Professor in 2003. The main focus of his research is the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter release and its regulation using structural biology, a variety of biophysical techniques and reconstitution approaches. He is currently a Professor in the Departments of Biophysics, Biochemistry and Pharmacology of UTSW, and holds the Virginia Lazenby O'Hara Chair in Biochemistry. He is an avid reader and a chess player. 

IUBMB Lecture – Closing Plenary Lecture

Successive supra-molecular structures that template and position symmetrical SNAREpins for co-operative neurotransmitter release

James Rothman

Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

James E. Rothman is the Sterling Professor of Cell Biology at Yale University and chairs Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology. His research has elucidated the molecular mechanisms and machinery governing vesicle traffic in the cell, explaining such diverse processes as the secretion of hormones like insulin, the action-potential controlled release of neurotransmitters in synaptic transmission, and the propagation of membrane compartments of the cytoplasm during cell growth and division. This work has been recognized by many awards, including the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Biomedical Research (2002), the Kavli Prize for Neuroscience (2010), and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2013). Rothman graduated from Yale College (1971) with a BA in Physics, then attended Harvard Medical School (1971–1976) as an MD-PhD student, leaving before completing the MD program. Before returning to Yale in 2008 he held professorships at Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia Universities, and was Vice-Chairman of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.

Three more plenary lecturers, linked to awards, are expected to join the line up after the announcement of prizewinners in the coming months.