Wellcome Sanger Institute and EMBO

Sanger researchers honoured by EMBO

The scientists are being recognised by EMBO for their contributions to immunology, single-cell genomics and machine learning methods.

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Today (4 July) Professor Muzlifah (Muzz) Haniffa and Dr Oliver Stegle have been elected as members of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) for their outstanding achievements in, and their significant contributions to, the life sciences. They are among 69 new additions to EMBO’s membership (60 members and 9 associate members). They join more than 2000 international members.

Muzz Haniffa is a Senior Group Leader in the Cellular Genetics programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Professor of Dermatology and Immunology at Newcastle University. Muzz has made ground-breaking research contributions in immunology and human development. She has defined the development of prenatal immunity and its relevance to childhood leukaemia, has shown the role of developmental pathways in skin disease, described immune responses in COVID-19, and discovered new skin cell subsets that can be targeted for vaccination and immunotherapy.

Muzz was a founding member of the Human Cell Atlas*, a global initiative aiming to map and characterise every cell type in the body. She continues to play a core role as Coordinator of the Development Bionetwork. To understand the human immune system her research team develops and integrates cutting edge experimental and computational techniques in single cell genomics, and pairs them with functional studies, including on organoid models. Her fundamental discoveries about the development and function of the immune system offer potential avenues for treatments for autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer.

“I am delighted to be a part of EMBO, an organisation that supports international collaboration and idea exchange between researchers across Europe. Such collaboration and exchange is vital to all of the research my team is involved in. This recognition is a testament to the collective efforts of my fantastic team, the many collaborators with whom I’m very lucky to work, and the behind the scene enablers – my family and my mentors. Each day we are learning more about how the immune system develops and maintains health. I look forward to the future discoveries of the Human Cell Atlas project.”

Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, Senior Group Leader in the Cellular Genetics programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Oliver is Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics Programme at the Sanger Institute, Head of the Computational Genomics and Systems Genetics Division at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg.

Oliver pioneers computational methods for integrating large-scale and varied genomic datasets across the individual and at the single-cell level to understand gene regulation, genetic variation, and disease associations. The methods and models his team develops bring together statistical inference, machine learning and computational biology. His team apply these to better understand how DNA sequences relate to biological changes. These multidisciplinary methods allow meaningful linkages between molecular changes with genetic variation and disease on a genome-wide scale.

Oliver’s work adds great value to the Human Cell Atlas* project, leveraging machine learning in the context of genomics and single-cell technologies.

“I am thrilled to be elected to EMBO and very thankful to all those I have had the pleasure of working with in my career. The support of the EMBO network will be a great asset and it is excellent to see that computational innovations are increasingly recognised in the community. I look forward to contributing to the EMBO network, working together with scientific peers to advance data driven biology using machine learning and AI. I believe it will make a big difference to how we study biology and has the potential to yield new answers about how life works.”

Dr Oliver Stegle, Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

“These remarkable scientists have unravelled molecular secrets of life, deepened our understanding of health and disease, and are paving the way for further discoveries and innovations. Their achievements reinforce the critical role that life science research plays in the lives of citizens across Europe and the world.”

Professor Fiona Watt, EMBO Director

Muzz and Oliver will be formally welcomed at the Members’ Meeting in Heidelberg, Germany between 25-27 October 2023.

More information

About EMBO membership

EMBO membership honours distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the life sciences, including 91 Nobel Laureates who have/have held EMBO membership https://www.embo.org/the-embo-communities/nobel-laureates/.

Members support EMBO initiatives by serving on the organisation’s Council, committees and editorial boards, participating in the evaluation of applications for EMBO funding, acting as mentors to young scientists in our community, and advising on key activities.

EMBO’s major goals are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, advance their research, promote their international visibility and ensure their mobility. Courses, workshops, conferences, and scientific journals disseminate the latest research and offer training in techniques to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice. EMBO helps to shape science and research policy by seeking input and feedback from our community and by closely following the trends in science in Europe. For more information: www.embo.org


*More information on the Human Cell Atlas initiative can be found at https://www.humancellatlas.org