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Pr. Edith Heard will be the next EMBL Director General

In 2019, The fifth EMBL director general will be the professor at the College de France Edith Heard. World-renowned scientist the Professor at the Collège de France pursues her career at the top European biology research institution.

EMBL is at the forefront of innovation in life sciences research and provides services to the scientific community. The 1600 employees work on six sites: the main laboratory in Heidelberg (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Hinxton (the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), in England), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Monterotondo (near Rome).

The 28th June 2017, the committee of the EMBL, composed of leading scientists and science managers from 11 countries, selected Edith Heard as the organisation’s fifth Director. Edith will start her mandate the 1st of January 2019.

The blue marking corresponds to the nucleus, the green to the X chromosomes and the red to the Xist gene, a non-coding transcript
The blue marking corresponds to the nucleus, the green to the X chromosomes and the red to the Xist gene, a non-coding transcript

“I am extremely honoured to be offered this opportunity to serve European science as Director General of EMBL,” said Edith Heard. “As a deeply committed citizen of Europe, I will endeavour to promote the scientific excellence and service to the scientific community that characterise EMBL. EMBL represents a flagship for European research and is a model for the molecular life sciences worldwide. My ambition is to keep it at the forefront of international research and service provision, producing the leaders of the future and nurturing a spirit of research and training that is conducive to discovery and innovation. I intend to work very closely with EMBL’s Council and Scientific Advisory Committee, as well as the Heads of Units and group and team leaders, so that together we can elaborate the best plans of action for my leadership to be a success.”

The director of Institut Curie research center, Genevieve Almouzni declared about her colleague and friend “This is a wonderful choice, and an honour for the Institut Curie to contribute with a wonderful member of our community to the future of a key European Organization. As always, I will be happy to work with her for a successful transition. I am pleased that we will be able to build on this for the future !”

The Mammalian Developmental Epigenetics team (Inserm/CNRS/Institut Curie) is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms by which X inactivation is initiated and maintained, via chromatin proteins, non-coding RNAs and DNA methylation. They recently showed that the region that produces Xist (the X-inactivation centre) is organised into two topologically associating domains of sequence interactions (TADs) and uncovered a new level of chromosome folding in the mouse genome.

“Edith has enormous credibility as a leading scientist in Europe and worldwide. Her experience in developmental and cell biology and genomics make her a perfect scientific fit for EMBL. She is also an accomplished leader with a strong European vision. While at the Institut Curie, Edith has demonstrated her ability to choose and mentor excellent junior group leaders. I have every confidence in her ability to steer EMBL towards future success. I look forward to working with her during the transition.” said EMBL Director General Iain Mattaj.

Professor Heard is currently Director of the Genetics and Developmental Biology Unit, Principal Investigator Mammalian Developmental Epigenetics team at Institut Curie and holds the chair of Epigenetics and Cellular Memory at the Collège de France. Heard studied Natural Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, before going on to complete a PhD in cancer research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London. Since then she has worked at the Institut Pasteur (Paris), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (NY, USA) and the Institut Curie (Paris).

Edith Heard was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013 in recognition for her ground-breaking discoveries in epigenetics. She was elected as Professor at the Collège de France in 2012. She is also a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator and has been honoured with awards including among others the Prix Jean Hamburger, the Grand Prix de la Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale and, most recently, the 2017 the European Society for Human Genetics Award.