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Six AcademiaNet members have become EMBO members

18.7.2022 | Chosen for their ‘outstanding achievements’, the researchers will join a select community of leading life scientists
Six AcademiaNet members have been granted membership of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO): Sigal Ben-Yehuda, Madeline Lancaster, Prisca Liberali, Anne Osbourn, Barbara Treutlein and Helen Walden. They were elected alongside 61 other researchers for their “outstanding achievements in the life sciences.”

Three of the selected AcademiaNet members work with self-assembled 3D miniature organs known as organoids, in a testament to the scientific impact of these new models.

Just a few weeks ago, Prof Liberali, who is based at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland, was awarded the 2022 EMBO Gold Medal for her work on intestinal organoids. She is also known for having developed a special light-sheet microscope, which allows her team to imagine the development of the mini-guts continually for weeks. She tweeted about her new EMBO membership that it was “a great honor to be part of this incredible group.”

Alongside her is Dr Lancaster, a developmental neurobiologist based at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, who is famous for developing cerebral organoids, or mini-brains (she told us all about them in an AcademiaNet interview). She uses them to study what happens to brain development when genes associated with autism and intellectual disability are in play. “I’m so delighted to have been selected,” she commented on twitter.

Also working with cerebral organoids is Prof Treutlein from ETH Zürich in Switzerland. She studies how humans form organs; for example, she follows the development of human cerebral organoids and compares them to those of other primates, to understand what makes us uniquely human. Prof Treutlein tweeted that she was “really happy and extremely honoured to be a new EMBO member.”

The other three new EMBO members have less overlap in their work. At John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, Prof Osbourn studies biosynthesis of natural products in plants. The goal is not just to understand the mechanisms, but to use that understanding to create new ways to discover and synthesise useful natural products like drugs. For example, Prof Osbourn has developed a platform that enables the speedy production of triterpenes.

Prof Ben-Yehuda, who is based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, has made her contributions in the field of bacterial development and cell-cell communication. One of the things she studies is how bacterial spores can lay dormant before suddenly ‘waking up’ and converting into growing cells, and her lab has found several molecular mechanisms.

Finally, at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, Prof Walden works on the ways in which the protein ubiquitin is added to other proteins, which can cause a diverse range of outcomes. Using X-ray crystallography, she works on specific enzymes that facilitate this process and are implicated in human disease like early onset Parkinsonism.

The new EMBO members join a community of more than 1,900 leading life scientists. They will be formally welcomed to the fold at the annual Members’ Meeting in October.
  (© Emilie Steinmark / AcademiaNet / Spektrum.de)

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