The Participants of the EvoCell Programme

Francisca Hervas

Francisca Hervas

ESR, ZMBH, Heidelberg University

I am broadly interested in the evolutionary processes that shape adaptive diversity among animals. In particular, vertebrates show great diversity of phenotypic adaptations. So my main interest is to understand the underlying cellular and genetic mechanisms linked to these adaptive shifts, within a macroevolution frame.

Project name: The evolutionary and cellular origins of the vertebrate brain

or

The origin of the brain: a cellular story

Laura Piovani

Laura Piovani

ESR, Dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

The Lophotrochozoa, one of the three main branches of Bilateria, includes very diverse animals such as annelids, molluscs and flatworms. Despite their divergent adult forms, they have striking developmental similarities and a distinctive larva (the trochophore). Discovering the molecular genetic blueprint behind the lophotrochozoan larvae may help us to understand their homology and ultimately the origin of all larval forms.

Project name: The evolutionary and cellular origins of the Lophotrochozoan larva

or

What do snails and flatworms really have in common?

Alba Almazán Almazán

Alba Almazán Almazán

ESR, Institut de génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon, CNR-IGFL

I am attracted to developmental and evolutionary questions that explain the huge diversity surrounding us, for example how animal body plans and cell types evolved. A specific case is the progenitor cells that generate diverse cell types in the adult. Address these questions in the context of regeneration in an unexplored model is exciting.

Project name: Restoring cell-type diversity in adults: regenerated cell types and the evolutionary origins of progenitor cells

or

Can animals regenerate perfectly a damaged organ?

Milena Marinković

Milena Marinković

ESR in the Jekely lab, University of Exeter

I wanted to work on this project because I think it will be exciting to figure out how to integrate different omics data to answer neurobiological and evolutionary questions. I also simply like marine invertebrates: they’re weird and beautiful and they can help us learn about the distant evolutionary past.

Project name: Evolution of ciliomotor neurons

or

Evolution of the neuronal control of swimming in marine larvae

Anna Ferraioli

Anna Ferraioli

ESR, CNRS-OOV, Villefranche-sûr-mer

During my studies I could learn about the different applications of molecular biology, figuring out my great interest in evolutionary biology and research. I also understood the importance that bioinformatics has in this field of research, besides being an important and useful tool for analyze and investigate new horizons. The PhD project in which I am involved perfectly fits with my interests and with my idea to do science in a multidisciplinary way.

Project name: Cell type comparisons in larvae and medusae of the hydrozoan Clytia

or

The life cycle of a jellyfishe from a cell-type perspective 

Petra Kovacikova

Petra Kovacikova

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen, Norway

The moment I began to disentangle the events of early development of living organisms at DevBio courses, I knew I did not want to let go of that tingling fascination and amazement I felt. Now I get to look closer at the origin of programme specifying the new progeny.

Project name: The evolutionary origin and developmental relationships of germ line, gonads and embryonic mesodermal precursors

or

The ge(r)m cells – where the progeny stems from

Periklis Paganos

Periklis Paganos

ESR, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, SZN

: I am interested in studying the gene regulatory mechanisms involved in the specification and differentiation of the nervous system of the sea urchin embryo and larva. Within the context of the EvoCELL ITN we aim to generate single cell transcriptome data and perform a comparative analysis of neuronal differentiation programs in diverse species.

Project name: The neuropeptidergic system of the sea urchin larva: insight into the evolutionary origins of pancreatic and photoreceptor cell types.

or

Evolution and development of different neuronal subtypes in sea urchin.

Ines Fournon Berodia

Ines Fournon Berodia

ESR, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, SZN

Hello Fellows! I am one of the two newest additions to the EvoCELL ITN and will embark myself in a short-term Early Stage Research position involving sea urchins, at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. Having studied my Bsc in Biology and a Msc in Marine Biology I have a very broad background in general biology, from ecology to oceanography and of course molecular biology and genetics. The intriguing world of understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the evolution, ecology and development of the animal kingdom has always been an astonishing concept to me. Learning early on in my secondary education that inside us there are like encyclopaedias of genes that tell us the way living things are made was fascinating, even if it was only about yellow and green peas at the time.  

In my project with EvoCELL I will be zooming in deep into the world of molecular biology as I will focus on small RNAs (microRNAs and piRNAs). I aim to construct a library of small RNAs relevant to germ line cell specification in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus by isolating the cells in the small micromere at the early embryo stage and by making use of single cell RNA sequencing as well as other molecular techniques. 

Project name: Identification of microRNAs and piRNAs involved in sea urchin germ line specification

Siri Kellner

Siri Kellner

ESR, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, MfN

The EvoCELL project is giving me the opportunity to communicate highly specialized research in a critical and reflective way to the public. Moreover, I will be able to express my creativity and fascination in molecular biology by researching for and developing a virtual exhibition.

Project name: Cell type evolution in a nutshell: communicating project-based science to a wider Audience.

or

The evolution of cell types examined through a virtual exhibition.

Brenda Irene Medina Jiménez

Brenda Irene Medina Jiménez

ESR, Uppsala University

My research interest centers in the evolution of invertebrates, mainly bilaterians, and being part of the EvoCELL network will allow me to study them using the latest single-cell sequencing technologies and exchange ideas with fellow members.

Project name: Evolution of the Panarthropoda from a cell type perspective

or

Study of the evolution of spiders, flies, beetles, and other closely related animals analyzing their cell types (cells that can evolve on their own) .

Konstantinos Geles

Konstantinos Geles

ESR, Università degli Studi di Salerno, UNISA

Biology and personal development. The opportunity to predict and identify potential biomarkers of tumour cells through the exploitation of state-of-the-art technologies, such as single-cell sequencing, to aid in cancer diagnosis and prevention. Furthermore, constant development of data mining and analysis skills to acquire more knowledge in the biology of cancer.

Project name: “Role of Piwi-piRNA pathway in somatic stem cell specification and differentiation”

or

“piRNAs, a way to discover more information regarding the development of tumour cells.”

Kevin Nzumbi Mutemi
Kevin Nzumbi Mutemi

ESR, Arendt Lab, EMBL Heidelberg

Perhaps naïve or foolish, but I would love to understand why nervous systems emerged in nature? What selection pressures drive the diversity in nervous system organization? How do such features facilitate animal behavior, physiology and ecology? Plus, the nervous system is beautiful so why not!

Project name: Evolution of the apical nervous system in bilateria

or

What did the forebrain look like (and what is it comprised of) in early evolving animals with whom we share a common ancestor?

Charles Hillier
Charles Hillier

ESR, EMBL Heidelberg

Perhaps naïve or foolish, but I would love to understand why nervous systems emerged in nature? What selection pressures drive the diversity in nervous system organization? How do such features facilitate animal behavior, physiology and ecology? Plus, the nervous system is beautiful so why not!

Project name: Evolution of the apical nervous system in bilateria

or

What did the forebrain look like (and what is it comprised of) in early evolving animals with whom we share a common ancestor?

Luca Santangeli
Luca Santangeli

ESR, EMBL Heidelberg

My interests in biology have always been very broad, spanning from the smallest chemical and molecular interactions to animal’s biology, behaviour and the big picture of evolution. I find astonishing how evolution led to the biodiversity of our planet and shaped animals’ body, probably starting from one single cell. This process, that lasted billions of years, is somehow “recorded and stored” in the genome (and not only) of each cell of our body. An immense quantity of information that is used during development by extremely complex and finely regulated molecular mechanisms to partition specific cellular functions into different cell types.

I am now trying to identify, in the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii, a class of small RNA molecules (called microRNAs) that are conserved in animals’ evolution and appear to play an important role in the regulatory network that defines the cell-type identity.

This is a unique opportunity to combine all my interests and use cutting edge technologies to answer evolutionary questions.

Project manager of the EvoCell Programme

Francesa Stomeo
Francesa Stomeo

Project Officer

After obtaining my PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at the University of Seville, Spain in 2004 I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town, South Africa and at the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, in Nairobi, Kenya. I worked as the Capacity Building Scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub until early 2018. Since October 2018 I am the Project Manager of the EvoCELL Network at EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany. I am inspired by science and nature and particularly passionate about research management. The last nine years in Africa have given me the opportunity to strengthen scientific and research management capability and to confirm my idea regarding my skills of adaptation. As bacteria do, I can also adapt, thrive and grow in any environment, I always like to say. An optimist by nature, I am enthused by people and different cultures. I am very excited and honored to be part of the EvoCELL Network.

The Principal Investigators of the EvoCell Programme

Michalis Averof

Michalis Averof

Institut de génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon

1990 BA Natural Sciences (Biology), Dublin, Ireland
1994 PhD Genetics, Cambridge, UK
1995-97 Postdoc, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
2000-12 PI, IMBB-FORTH, Crete, Greece
2012- PI, IGFL/CNRS, Lyon, France.

Mathilde Paris

Mathilde Paris

Institut de génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon

I’m interested in understanding how the wide diversity of living organisms, and especially animals, was established. I have studied several groups of animals, from amphioxus to insects, to mammals and crustaceans. I’m using functional genomics methods in a comparative framework to understand how changes in gene expression underlie the evolution of phenotypes. 
After a PhD from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon in 2008, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Michael B. Eisen and then Lior Pachter at UC Berkeley (USA). In 2013 I moved to Benjamin Prud’homme’s lab at the IBDM in Marseille (France), where I became a senior researcher and in 2018 I joined Michalis Averof’s lab at the Institut de Génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon.
Gaspar Jekely

Gaspar Jekely

Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter,

After obtaining a PhD in genetics at the Eötvös Loránd Universities in Budapest I moved to the EMBL in Heidelberg to work as a postdoc in the laboratory of Pernille Rorth and then Detlev Arendt. In 2007, I started my group at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen. 10 years later, my lab moved to the Living Systems Institute at the University of Exeter. My research interests include the structure, function and evolution of neural circuits in marine ciliated larvae and the origin and early evolution of nervous systems. We study cell types, circuits and behaviours in the larvae of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii.

Max Telford

Max Telford

Dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

Research Summary
Understanding the evolution of the great diversity of animals is a major goal of biology. Research in my lab concentrates on developing an accurate tree of evolutionary relationships of the animal kingdom and on experiments to determine the genotypic changes involved in specific, well characterised morphological changes within the animals.

Biologists would like to understand how evolution has happened in an historical sense – which characteristics arose in which lineages, when they arose and hopefully even an adaptive explanation of why they arose. All of these questions depend absolutely on mapping the characters of interest onto an accurate phylogenetic tree of the animal kingdom and we are using a variety of molecular approaches to refine the animal tree.

We would also like to know how evolution works in a more general sense; we would like to go beyond the neo-Darwinian explanation of adaptation through selection on random mutations to discover exactly what kind of changes at the level of the genotype have given rise to the changes we see in phenotype. These effects of genotype on adult phenotype are mediated through the organisms program of development from egg to adult and these latter questions constitute the program of research now called evolutionary developmental biology. The second aim of the group is to undertake a programme of comparative developmental work in arthropods using modern molecular genetic methods.

Francesca Rizzo

Francesca Rizzo

Researcher at Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and Genomics of the University of Salerno

2002 – Degree in Chemistry at the University of Naples “Federico II”
2003 – Master in Bioinformatics at the University of Sannio (Benevento)
2008 –PhD in Genetics, development and differentiation at the Open University of London

After obtaining My PhD in 2008 from the Open University of London for work carried out at Stazione Zoologica “Anton Dohrn” in Naples, I worked as postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Toxicogenomics at Genetic Research Center Gaetano Salvatore, Biogem s.c.ar.l, Ariano Irpino. From 2010 to 2012 I worked as postdocs in the Department Medicine and Surgery of the University of Salerno with a fellowship funded by Fondazione con il Sud.

In 2013 I got the postdoctoral fellowship of “Young Investigator Programme” funded by Fondazione Veronesi.
Since 2013 I am a co-founder and member of the academic Spin-off Genomix4Life.
Since 2017 I am a Researcher (Rtd A) at the Department of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry of the University of Salerno.

My research interests cover many aspects of genomics and bioinformatics applied to the study of human diseases. My ongoing research projects include the application of novel molecular approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of common and complex diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.

Maria I. Arnone

Maria I. Arnone

Direttore Dipartimento di Biologia ed Evoluzione Organismi Marini

Biochemist by training, I am a developmental molecular biologist with expertise in gene expression analysis, functional genomics and gene regulatory network (GRN) studies. After a period of three years (1995-1998) at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, where I contributed to a seminal work on the organization and function of genomic regulatory systems (Arnone and Davidson, Development 1997), I established my group at Stazione Zoologica in Naples with the aim of studying evolution of organs and body parts by comparison of the GRNs that control the formation of such parts in different animals. Using the sea urchin embryo as main model system, my lab recently developed a novel approach integrating various ‘omics’ technologies to study developmental GRNs and their evolution.

Carsten Lüter

Carsten Lüter

Curator of Marine Invertebrates, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

After obtaining my PhD in Zoology at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany in 1998 I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Universität Bielefeld, Germany and University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Since 2001 I am curator of the marine invertebrate collection and head of the morphological laboratories at Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany. Since 2009 I am a private lecturer at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

My research interests cover many aspects of animal evolution, in particular the evolution of organ systems in marine invertebrates (lophophorates) and the biomineralization of the brachiopod shell. Working in one of the largest natural history museums in Europe, I have also been involved in the development of permanent and special exhibitions and various public outreach activities.

Photo: © Carola Radke

Andreas Hejnol

Andreas Hejnol

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen

Andreas Hejnol is Professor and research group leader of “Comparative Developmental Biology” at the Department for Biological Sciences (BIO) in Bergen, Norway. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Comparative Zoology from the Free University Berlin, Germany in 2002 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Ralf Schnabel in Braunschweig and at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory in the lab of Mark Q. Martindale in Hawaii. He led a research group at the Sars Centre from 2009-2019. His current research interest on descriptive, experimental molecular developmental biology of a broad range of invertebrates and includes comparative genomic approaches and phylogenomics. The main research goal is to understand the evolutionary origin and diversification of animal body plans, cell types and organ systems. He is ERC Consolidator Grant holder and received for his achievements in Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Comparative Zoology the prestigious Alexander O. Kovalevsky Medal from the St. Petersburg Society for Naturalists in 2018.
Richard Copley

Richard Copley

Directeur de Recherche - Responsable de l'équipe "Genome and protein evolution in animals"

I am a group leader at the Laboratoire de Biologie du Développement de Villefranche-sur-mer, in France. I am interested in the conserved genetic core of animal life and how this translates to the structure of macromolecular machines. My group uses and develops computational
methods to analyse genome, transcriptome and molecular structure data, and collaborates to produce informative sequence resources from new taxa. We’re particularly interested in the non-bilaterian animals, but especially cnidarians and the nature of the cnidarian-bilaterian
ancestor.

Evelyn Houliston

Evelyn Houliston

Directeur de Recherche - LBDV Laboratoire de Biologie du Développement de Villefranche sur mer

I obtained my PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK), studying cell polarisation in mouse embryos. During a post-doc in Toronto I turned to amphibian eggs, focussing on the mechanics of the egg ‘cortical rotation’ that establishes the embryonic body axes. I then moved to the Developmental Biology Laboratory in Villefranche–sur-mer (LBDV) and started studying cell/developmental mechanisms in marine species such as the ctenophore Beroe ovata. I am a CNRS research director and joint leader of the “Cnidiarian developmental mechanisms” group with Tsuyoshi Momose. We mainly use the hydrozoan Clytia hemisphaerica as a model species to address cell, developmental and evolutionary questions.
Detlev Arendt
Detlev Arendt

Group Leader, Senior Scientist and Academic Mentor Postdoctoral Training, EMBL

2008 – present Honorary Professor at the Ruprechts-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany
2007 – present Senior Scientist, Developmental Biology Unit, EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany
2007 – present Academic Mentor, Postdoctoral Training EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany
2006 – present Group Leader, Developmental Biology Unit, EMBL, Germany

Dr. Vladimir Benes
Dr. Vladimir Benes

Head of Genomics Core Facility, EMBL

Biography

PhD 1994, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague.
Postdoctoral research at EMBL.
Facility head since 2001.

Henrik Kaessmann

Henrik Kaessmann

ZMBH Research Group Leader

After obtaining my PhD in 2001 from the University of Leipzig for work carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, USA. From 2003 to 2015, I carried out research as a group leader (i.e., as an assistant, associate and then full professor) at the Center for Integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. From 2010 to 2015, I was also a group leader at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB). Since 2015, I have been working as a full professor at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH).

My overall research aim is to unveil the molecular basis of the phenotypic evolution of mammals and other vertebrates. The primary current focus of my group is to elucidate the cellular origins and evolution of mammalian/vertebrate organs and the underlying gene regulatory changes.

Graham Budd

Graham Budd

Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology

My work is centred on the so-called “Cambrian explosion”, the rapid appearance of major animal groups in the fossil record some 520 million years ago, with a specialisation in the origin and early evolution of the arthropods. I am also interested in broad-scale evolutionary questions including the evolution of development and the organisms, and patterns of diversification.

Ralf Janssen

Ralf Janssen

Researcher at Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology

External Advisors

Prof. Casey Dunn, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, USA
Dr. Héloïse Dufour, Director of Le Cercle, Fondation Schumberger pour l’Education et la Recherche, France
Prof. Nicole King, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California Berkeley, USA
Dr. Amy Hamilton, Senior Marketing Manager, EMEA at Fluidigm Corporation

Author