Three Sanger Institute researchers honoured by EMBO

The scientists are being recognised for their contributions to immunology, single-cell genomics, malaria research, artificial intelligence and promoting dialogues between scientists, clinicians and the public.

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Today (6 July) Professors Menna Clatworthy, Julian Rayner, and Fabian Theis join 64 fellow researchers from 22 countries in being elected to membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). EMBO was created to promote excellence in molecular life sciences in Europe and each year it recognises new members on the basis of scientific excellence.

Election as an EMBO Member is a lifelong honour that recognises a researcher’s outstanding achievements in, and their significant contribution to, the life sciences. The organisation is made up of more than 1,900 of the world’s foremost researchers who serve on the organisation’s council and committees, evaluate applications for EMBO funding, and act as mentors to young scientists.

Professor Menna Clatworthy is NIHR Research Professor and Professor of Translational Immunology, an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist, Director of Clinical Studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, and a member of Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. At the Sanger Institute, Menna’s research focuses on discovering and understanding the different types of immune cell found within different organs in humans, and how the unique environment found within each tissue affects the cells’ functions. Her team studies the kidney and urinary tract as part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative, which is creating a comprehensive reference map of all human cells in the human body in health and disease.

“I am delighted to be recognised by EMBO.  My work over the years has spanned from clinical studies through to single cell molecular mapping, and has required an enormous collaborative effort. Without the support and hard work of my research team, colleagues and collaborators, as well as the generosity of patients and tissue donors, we would not be able to make the progress we have in understanding human tissue immunity. This award honours them too. EMBO plays an invaluable role in promoting scientific partnerships across countries to foster high-quality science and drive the next wave of discovery, and I look forward to contributing to this goal.”
Professor Menna Clatworthy, Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Professor Julian Rayner is Director of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research (CIMR), part of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, and Director of Wellcome Connecting Science. Julian was previously a member of Faculty in the Parasites and Microbes programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. During his time at the Sanger Institute, he worked with colleagues to carry out the first whole genome-scale genetic screens in malaria parasites, uncovering multiple new essential drug targets. As Director of CIMR, Julian now leads an interdisciplinary research institute focussed on understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease, where his team uses understanding of the interactions between malaria parasites and human red blood cells to identify and prioritise drug and vaccine therapies. He also oversees the strategic direction of Wellcome Connecting Science to ensure that dialogue and learning between scientists, clinicians, and the general public sits at the centre of research endeavours in the UK and around the world.

“Science is a truly collaborative process, drawing together the generosity and support of the public, the imagination and dedication of scientists, and the insights and expertise of clinicians. I am humbled to be recognised by my scientific peers and grateful to my team members and research partners all around the world without whom my research would not be possible. EMBO embodies the supportive, open spirit that Wellcome Connecting Science seeks to nurture, and I look forward to contributing to their activities.”
Professor Julian Rayner, Director of Wellcome Connecting Science

Professor Fabian Theis is head of the Computational Health Center at Helmholtz Munich, Chair of “Mathematical Modelling of Biological Systems” at the Technical University of Munich, Director of Helmholtz AI and a member of Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. Fabian has pioneered the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to gather, store, analyse and interpret genomic data from single-cell genomic studies. His research group at the Sanger Institute seeks to generate computational approaches and techniques that can be used by research groups around the world to unlock the secrets of how cells interact in healthy and diseased tissues.

“I am honoured and excited to become an EMBO member. The Organization is founded on the principles of supporting and promoting scientific partnerships internationally to nurture high-quality science and drive future discoveries. I am excited that membership will allow me to help to contribute to the next wave of European science in particular at the interface of molecular biology and data science, and thus build research ties and cooperation across Europe, which feels even more important in these turbulent times.”
Professor Fabian Theis, Associate Faculty in the Cellular Genetics programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Sanger Institute was created by Wellcome to deliver the first freely-accessible human reference genome to unlock genomic research around the globe. When the human genome was completed in 2003, the Institute continued in its mission to provide open, foundational resources to benefit the global research community. As a testament to its approach to supporting and nurturing cross-border collaborations and free research tools and data, the Institute has more than 20 current and former Faulty and Associate Faculty who are EMBO fellows.

“I am delighted for all three of our scientists who are being honoured by EMBO. The Sanger Institute was founded on the core principles of open, collaborative and transparent research conducted to lay the foundations of freely accessible data and tools for scientists across the globe to build on for future discoveries. The passion, imagination and scientific generosity of Julian, Menna and Fabian in their respective fields continue to deepen our understanding of molecular biology and I sincerely congratulate them on their election.”
Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Sanger Institute

Members provide guidance and support for EMBO activities, for example by evaluating funding applications, serving on EMBO Council and committees, or joining the editorial boards of EMBO Press journals. Through their involvement, members help to shape the direction of life sciences, foster the careers of young researchers, and strengthen the research communities in Europe and beyond.

“The new EMBO Members and Associate Members are exceptional scientists, who carry out leading research across a variety of fields, ranging from cell biology and cancer to vaccine development and machine learning. I am delighted to welcome them to EMBO, and I know that they will enrich the life of the organization immensely.”
Professor Fiona Watt, EMBO Director

Menna, Julian and Fabian will be formally welcomed at the Members’ Meeting in Heidelberg between 26 and 28 October 2022.

More information

About EMBO

EMBO is an organization of more than 1,900 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences in Europe and beyond. The goals of the organization are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a research environment where scientists can achieve their best work.

EMBO helps young scientists to 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 following closely the trends in science in Europe. For more information: