Plenary Lecturers

 

PRESIDENTIAL LECTURERS


Fiona Doetsch
The Center for Molecular Life Sciences,
University of Basel, Switzerland
 

Obtained her B.Sc. at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and her Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in New York City, USA.  She was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies before joining Columbia University as faculty in 2003. In 2014, she moved to the Biozentrum, University of Basel in Switzerland where she is Professor of Molecular Stem Cell Biology. She is a member of EMBO, and has received numerous awards including the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, the Irma T. Hirschl Scholar Award, the Harold and Golden Lamport Award for Excellence in Basic Science Research and an ERC Advanced Grant.


Wolfram Schultz
University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, United Kingdom
 

Neuroscientist, former President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society.Pioneered the analysis of pathways in the brain that are fundamental to our ability to balance risk and reward. His discoveries relate not only to psychology and neuroscience, but also to other areas of human activity such as management and economics. Pathways that carry the neurotransmitter dopamine connect the midbrain with higher brain areas associated with learning. He discovered that cells in this pathway change their activity according to how well animals and humans make predictions about expected rewards. Broadly, they release more dopamine if things turn out better than we expect, and less if they turn out worse. They signal this ‘prediction error’ in compliance with formal utility, linking psychological and economic theories.

 
 
Virginijus Šikšnys
Institute of Biotechnology,
Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania
 

Biochemist, head of the Department of Protein-DNA Interactions at the Vilnius University Institute of Biotechnology. Studied organic chemistry at Vilnius University, then moved to the Lomonosov Moscow State University to study enzyme kinetics, where obtained PhD. After Moscow, Šikšnys went back to Vilnius to work at the Institute of Applied Enzymology. Aside from a brief period in 1993 when he was a visiting scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry (Martinsried, Germany) he has spent his entire career in the Lithuanian capital. His main research interests focused for many years on the role of restriction enzymes in combating viruses. Inspired by a 2007 paper that reported the adaptive immune system provided by the CRISPR DNA sequence in bacteria, he began working on understanding the role of the enzyme Cas9 in CRISPR. His work led to the publication of a paper in 2012 that demonstrated how the CRISPR-Cas9 system can be used in gene editing.

 
 
 

 PLENARY LECTURERS

 

 
Naomi Anne Fineberg
 
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield,
Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
 

Professor of Psychiatry Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust  (HPFT), where she leads the HPFT centre within the NHS England, Highly Specialised Service for Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders (OCRD). She currently chairs the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Anxiety &Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Scientific Sectionand the European Union COST Action into Problematic Internet Usage, and is Secretary of the International College of Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders. Professor Fineberg has a substantial track record in the investigation at the University of Hertfordshire, and a Consultant Psychiatrist at of the neurobiology and treatment of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and behavioural addiction. She has published widely in the field, her publications are highly cited and she holds editorial positions. 

 

 
Jürgen Knoblich
Institute of Molecular Biotechnology OAW,
Vienna, Austria
 

Developmental neuroscientist studying human brain development and psychiatric disorders. Head of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna (IMBA). He has started his scientific career as a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen where he worked on cell cycle control in Drosophila under the guidance of Christian Lehner. In 1994 he moved to San Francisco to join the laboratory of YuhNung and Lily Jan where he discovered his interest in asymmetric cell division, a topic that has remained the main focus of his research ever since. After returning to Europe he became a group leader at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, Austria. In 2004, he moved next door to the newly founded Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. His group has developed a method for growing human brain tissue in the lab. They can recapitulate human embryonic brain development during the first trimester and analyze the developmental defects leading to neurological disorders.

 
 
Riitta Hari
MD PhD, Prof. emerita of Systems Neuroscience
and Human Brain Imaging, Academician of Science, 

Aalto University,Finnland
 

Riitta Hari was trained in medicine and clinical neurophysiology at the University of Helsinki. She has been leading research on systems-level neuroscience and human neuroimaging since early 1980s at the Helsinki University of Technology (currently Aalto University). Hari’s team has developed magnetoencephalography (MEG) on a broad basis for tracking activation sequences in the human brain, thereby assessing human sensory, motor, cognitive and social functions, with applications in both basic research and clinical diagnostics. Hari's special interests include two-person neuroscience, the dynamics of human brain function and most recently also the relationship between neuroscience and art.

 

 

Arturas Petronis
Campbell Family Mental Health Research
Institute, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,
Toronto, Canada

 

Art Petronis graduated from Kaunas Medical University, Lithuania, and he worked on his PhD at the Brain Research Institute in Moscow. Dr Petronis completed his post-doctoral training at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Toronto, and since 1997 he has been a faculty at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and University of Toronto. His research is dedicated to the elucidation of the role of epigenetic factors in complex non-Mendelian diseases such as schizophrenia, diabetes, and cancer. Currently Dr. Petronis is Professor and Head of the Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory. In 2010-20 he held the Tapscott Chair for Schizophrenia Studies at the University of Toronto. Since 2019 he leads the Epigenetics Research Laboratory at the Life Sciences Center, Vilnius University, Lithuania. In 2020, Dr. Petronis has been elected to the Academia Europeae. He published over 100 papers and book chapters which were cited over 7500 times.

 
 
Amita Sehgal
Perelman School of Medicine,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
 

Amita Sehgal is a molecular biologist and chronobiologist in the Department of Neuroscience at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in India, and earned her BSc as an undergraduate at Delhi University and her MSc at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She began pursuing her PhD in cell biology and genetics at Cornell University, than she began her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Rockefeller University in the lab of Michael Young, where she had her first exposure to the study of circadian rhythms, a field in which she has since remained. She was involved in the discovery of Drosophila TIM and many other important components of the Drosophila clock mechanism. She also played a pivotal role in the development of Drosophila as a model for the study of sleep. Her research continues to be focused on understanding the genetic basis of sleep and also how circadian systems relate to other aspects of physiology.

 
 
Gábor Nyiri
​​​​
Hungarian Academy of Sciences,
Budapest, Hungary
 

Group leader at the Institute of Experimental Medicine (IEM) in Budapest, Hungary. He carried out his doctoral studies at Oxford University in England and at Semmelweis University in Budapest, then he established a workgroup at the IEM in 2003. In his early works, he studied the quantitative molecular neuroanatomy of the mammalian hippocampal formation, then in the last decade, his lab focused mostly on the subcortical control of learning and memory of negative experience.

 
 
BRAIN PRIZE LECTURE 

 

Adrian Bird

University of Edinburgh
United Kingdom

Adrian Bird has held the Buchanan Chair of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh since 1990. He was founding director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology and is deputy director of the Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain. Adrian graduated in biochemistry from the University of Sussex in 1968 and obtained his PhD at Edinburgh University; subsequent roles included Senior Scientist at the newly-founded Institute for Molecular Pathology in Vienna. He was a governor of the Wellcome Trust (2000-2010), a trustee of Cancer Research UK(2011-2017) and has chaired the Crick’s Scientific Advisory Board since 2017. 

Adrian's research focuses on the biological and biomedical significance of DNA methylation and other epigenetic processes. His laboratory identified CpG islands as gene markers in the vertebrate genome and discovered proteins that read the DNA methylation signal to influence chromatin structure. Mutations in one of these proteins, MeCP2, cause the severe neurological disorder Rett Syndrome, for which the Bird laboratory established the first animal model. Unexpectedly, his group showed that the resulting severe neurological phenotype can be cured.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society andreceived a knighthood in 2014. Other awards include the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Gairdner International Award, the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine and the 2020 “Brain Prize”of the Lundbeck Foundation.