S. Artavanis-Tsakonas is Professor of Cell Biology, Emeritus, at the Harvard Medical School. He earned his MSc in Chemistry at the ETH in Zurich and his PhD in Molecular Biology from Cambridge University. After postdoctoral work at the Biozentrum in Basel and Stanford University, he joined the Yale faculty in 1982 and rose to Professor at the Department of Biology and Professor at the Department of Cell Biology at the Yale School of Medicine. He was also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and served as the Director of the Biological Sciences Division at Yale. In 1999 was elected Professor at the Collège de France, in Paris holding the Chair of Biology and Genetics of Development until 2012 when he became Professeur honoraire. He is the Founding Director of the Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology at Institute Curie, Paris. In 1998 he joined the Cell Biology Department at the Harvard Medical School holding the Isselbacher-Schwartz chair at the MGH Cancer Center until he moved his laboratory at the Medical School. As Professor Emeritus of Cell Biology now he maintains his research laboratory at the Harvard Medical School and is the founding Director of the Developmental and Regenerative Biology Program at Harvard. From 2012 to March 2017 he also served the Chief Scientific Officer and EVP for Biogen . His honours include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, election as an Associate Member of EMBO and election as a corresponding member of the Athens Academy. He is the president and co-founder of the philanthropic organization Fondation Santé, which supports biomedical research in Greece.

Research Interests

Our laboratory is using molecular and developmental genetics to dissect biological complexity underlying gene crosstalk. Remarkably, metazoan development relies on a gene framework which is evolutionarily conserved but is flexible enough to allow evolutionary change. Flies and humans have unexpectedly similar genomes yet they sustain very distinct developmental programs.
Our fundamental goal is to gain insight into the way that genes integrate their action to guide development and consequently disease. We have been addressing these questions through the genetic and molecular study of the Notch signaling pathway, one of a few highly conserved signaling pathways that control cellular fates in metazoans. Over the years, we determined and analyzed most of the core genetic elements of this pathway and uncovered an astonishingly complex gene circuitry that crosstalks with, and consequently modulates, Notch signals in the cell. An understanding of the molecular rules underlying Notch signal integration is not only important for the definition of Notch biology but also serves as a paradigm to gain general insight into the molecular genetics governing metazoan development. The biological complexity revealed by interrogating the Notch genetic circuitry is not the exception but likely the rule the signalling networks examined thus far.
While we have traditionally used both mice and Drosophila as our experimental systems, we are now using only Drosophila and have, to a large degree, shifted our experimental projects into the analysis of the genetic circuitry associated with neurodegenerative diseases. We apply Drosophila genetics as a powerful tool to dissect disease-related cellular pathways and to identify and interrogate novel genes that modulate these pathways. Our current focus is on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 26: Genetics