keynote spEakers

Dr Florence Besse

Head, Institute of Biology Valrose - iBV, France

Regulating RNA in the spatial dimension in the Drosophila brain 

Florence is interested in the spatio-temporal regulation of RNA in the developing, mature and aging Drosophila brain, and in particular in the machineries and physiological signalling pathways that control RNA targeting and translation control. Combining advanced imaging, biochemical purification and transcriptome-wide profiling, her group has recently explored the dynamic regulation and function of RNA condensates in the context of memory circuits. 

Please click here to read more about Florence.


Lars Chittka

Professor in Sensory and Behavioural Ecology, University of London, United Kingdom

Social insects - ancient civilisations?” 

Lars Chittka is the author of the book The Mind of a Bee and a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London.   He is known for his work on the evolution of sensory systems and intelligence using insect-flower interactions as a model system. Chittka has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of animal cognition and its impact on evolutionary fitness studying bumblebees and honeybees.


Fen-Biao Gao

Professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute, University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, USA  

Pathogenic Mechanisms of Frontotemporal Dementia and ALS: Insights from Drosophila and iPSC Models

Dr. Fen-Biao Gao is an endowed professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School (UMass Chan). He is also the Founding Director of the Frontotemporal Dementia Research Center at UMass Chan. After finishing his PhD study on neuronal RNA binding proteins at Duke University, he performed his postdoctoral trainings in developmental neurobiology with Dr. Martin Raff at the University College London and then Dr. Yuh-Nung Jan at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). In 2000, he established his own laboratory at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at UCSF and then moved to UMass Chan in 2010. He was a Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience, a Klingenstein Fellow in Neuroscience and a recipient of the McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award. In 2017, he was invested as the Governor Paul Cellucci Chair in Neuroscience Research. In 2018, he received a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the NIH for his work on neurodegeneration.

His laboratory studied molecular mechanisms of dendritic morphogenesis in Drosophila, and then in recent years has used Drosophila and patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as experimental systems to investigate pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic targets of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the most common dementia diagnosed before age 60 that shares genetic and pathological overlaps with the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Please click here to read more about Fen-Biao.


Bassem Hassan

The EMBO Keynote Lecture

Team Leader and Institute's Scientific Director, The Paris Brain Institute (ICM), France 

Emergence of wiring specificity during brain development

Bassem Hassan is a Team Leader at The Paris Brain Institute (ICM) in Paris, France, and the institute’s Scientific Director. Research in the Hassan lab focuses on understanding the genetic mechanisms that regulate the early development of the nervous system from cell fate specification to neural circuit formation, using fruit fly, mouse and human iPS models. Recent work from the lab has revealed unexpected insights into the regulation of time during early brain development, as well as the role of stochastic processes in brain wiring that challenge previously held assumptions about the emergence of specificity in neural circuit architecture.

Please click here to read more about Bassem.



Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Professor of Genetics and Physiology, Imperial College London, United Kingdom 

Gut feelings

Irene Miguel-Aliaga is Professor of Genetics and Physiology at Imperial College London, and MRC Investigator at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences.

Irene’s group explores the idiosyncrasies of adult organs: how they differ between the sexes or across life stages, and why they engage in crosstalk with other organs. They were one of the first labs to tackle the study of the brain-gut axis using the powerful genetics of Drosophila. They discovered that the brain-gut axes of males and females are very different, and that these intestinal sex differences impact food intake, gamete production and tumour susceptibility. They have also investigated how the intestine senses nutrients, revealing unexpected roles for metal sensing in the regulation of feeding and growth.

Please click here to read more about Irene.



Gaia Tavosanis

Professor of Development Biology, RWTH, Aachen, Germany 

Exploring the landscape in the mushroom body calyx

Neurons are capable of undergoing dynamic remodelling. During development their capacity of dynamic structural changes supports the construction of functional neuronal circuits. In the course of adult life, neurons retain the capability to undergo active structural changes. These facilitate plasticity, including learning and the formation of lasting memories, and also counteract circuit destabilization and degeneration. We study the cellular mechanisms that support neuronal dynamics during development and during the animal’s adult life. Our hypothesis is that shared molecular mechanisms control dynamics at both stages.

Please click here to read more about Gaia.


Bruno van Swinderen

Professor in Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Queensland, Australia 

The predictive fly brain

Bruno van Swinderen is a Group Leader at the Queensland Brain Institute, at The University of Queensland in Australia. His lab uses electrophysiology and imaging techniques to understand how the brain prioritises or blocks sensory stimuli, as happens during sleep and attention. His discoveries include uncovering fundamental mechanisms of general anaesthesia, as well as neural correlates of selective attention and sleep stages in flies. He is particularly interested in how sleep and attention might have co-evolved to optimise adaptive behaviour, and the evolution of consciousness in animals more generally.


Hongyan Wang

Professor and Deputy Director of the Neuroscience & Behavioural Disorders Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore 

Waking up "sleeping" neural stem cells

Professor Hongyan Wang is Professor and Deputy Director of the Neuroscience & Behavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore. Her lab focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the proliferation, asymmetric division, and differentiation of Drosophila neural stem cells. She is among the first few researchers who established Drosophila neuroblasts as a new model for studying stem cell self-renewal and brain tumor formation. Her lab was the first to establish Drosophila quiescent neural stem cells as a new model for regeneration. She is an elected EMBO Associate Member, the founding president of Society of Developmental Biologists Singapore, and Vice-President of Stem Cell Society Singapore.



Contact us

Event Management Team, Great Hall, Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands B15 2TT