Main menu

EMBO Gold Medal lectures

Sunday, 11 September 18:00 - 19:00
Room: Musensaal (Saal 2.0)

The EMBO Gold Medal 2016 has been awarded to Richard Benton of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Ben Lehner of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona, Spain.
For more detail about their achievements, please see the EMBO press release.

Awarded annually, the EMBO Gold Medal recognizes outstanding contributions of young researchers in the molecular life sciences. The recipients are awarded the Medal at The EMBO Meeting and give a talk.


Richard Benton CH

University of Lausanne

Evolution of olfaction: receptors, neurons and behaviours
My group is interested in understanding the structure, function and evolution of neural circuits. We exploit the olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster as a model, which is well-described, experimentally accessible and dynamically evolving. Furthermore, genomic and growing genetic access to closely related, but ecologically diverse, drosophilids and more distant insect species provides an unparalleled foundation for comparative studies of their olfactory circuits. I will present our recent work on the function and evolution of the sensory pathways expressing the Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), a family of variant ionotropic glutamate receptors that have diverse roles in environmental sensing.


Richard Benton obtained his PhD in biology from the University of Cambridge in 2003. During his post-doctoral research at the Rockefeller University, New York, he was supported by EMBO and Helen Hay Whitney Foundation fellowships. In 2007, he started his own research group at the Center for Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he became Associate Professor in 2012. He has received several awards, including the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology (2009) and is a member of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme.

Ben Lehner ES

Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona

Transgenerational epigenetic memory and forgetting in C. elegans
Since Darwin and Lamarck, biologists have been intrigued by the possibility of the inheritance of environmentally-acquired traits. In our work on the causes of inter-individual variation we chanced upon an example of a memory of environmental change that can endure for >10 generations in C. elegans. We have been using this as a model system to understand how information about the environment can be transmitted for many generations without establishing permanent epigenetic states. I will present this work and I will also show how impaired DNA replication during development can lead to genome-wide epigenetic reprogramming.


Ben Lehner received his BA and PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.  Since 2006 he has been a group leader at the EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Program in Barcelona and is currently ICREA and AXA Professor.  His lab uses model organisms and data to understand how genetic and non-genetic variation among individuals influences complex traits.