Tag Archives: BSDB

The BSDB Archive now available at the John Innes Centre

The BSDB Archive covers 70 years of our society’s history, providing deep insights into its early years, its long trail of scientific conferences, workshops and committee meetings; it includes an almost complete collection of the many newsletters that have been published since issue 1 came out in 1979. A year ago, many of the archive’s documents were made digitally available (see box below) and described in a dedicated blog post by Andreas Prokop (LINK). The sheer number of >30,000 downloads from this digital archive within less than a year (LINK), clearly illustrates the wider interest in these historical documents, which hopefully help also some of our younger members to understand how Developmental Biology as a discipline became established in the UK.

The BSDB will likely not go further with the archive’s digitisation, but has taken an important alternative step to make its contents available to those taking a serious interest. Thus, Sarah Wilmot at the Historical Collections of the John Innes Centre (collections.jic.ac.uk) has kindly agreed to host and curate the BSDB archive, and we are most grateful for her outstanding professional support that now makes the collection fully accessible for further investigation. As Carsten Timmermann wrote from his perspective as science historian: “Your archive is a little treasure trove and will enable us to understand the history of Developmental Biology in this country much better. I wish other societies would follow your example. If we had a whole set of similar archives at our disposal, this would help us to study the way the life sciences overall have developed, comparing and contrasting sub-disciplines and understanding trends. For example, one could look at conference programmes in different fields within the life sciences and study how molecular methods have transformed biology.” In this context it is of particular interest, that the BSDB Archive will be accessible side-by-side with the one of the Genetics Society, thus providing an even greater opportunity to perform studies into the UK’s science history.

Box 1. Current holdings of the BSDB archive

The Embryologists Club + SDB

Archive: 10.6084/m9.figshare.5899636 | SDB-1964| 1948-64(#2) | 1948-64(#1) | DOWNLOAD ALL

BSDB Newsletters

Archive: 10.6084/m9.figshare.5827359 | 2016+17(#37+38) | 2015(#36) | 2014(#35) | 2013(#34) | 2012(#33-2) | 2012(#33-1) | 2011(#32-2) | 2011(#32-1) | 2010(#31-2) | 2010(#31-1)| 2009(#30-2) | 2009(#30-1) | 2008(#29-2) | 2008(#29-1) | 2007(#28-2) | 2007(#28-1) | 2006(#27-2) | 2006(#27-1) | 2005(#26-2) | 2005(#26-1) | 2004(#25-2) | 2004(#25-1) | 2003(#24-2) | 2003(#24-1) | 2002(#23-2) | restart @ #23 | 2002-1(#45) | 2001-2(#44) | 2001-1(#43) | 2000-2(#42) | 2000-1(#41) | #40 missed out| 1999-2(#39) | 1999-1(#38) |1998(#37) | 1997-2(#36) | 1997-1(#35) | 1996-2(#34) | 1996-1(#33) | 1995-2(#32) | 1995-1(#31) | 1994-2(#30) | 1994-1(#29) | 1993-2(#28) | 1993-1(#27) | 1992-2(#26) | 1992-1(#25) | 1991-2(#24) | 1991-1(#23) | 1990-2(#22) | 1990-1(#21) | 1989-2(#20) | 1989-1(#19) | 1988-2(#18) | 1988-1(#17) | 1987-2(#16) | 1987-1(#15) | 1986-2(#14) | 1986-1(#13) | 1985-2(#12) | 1985-1(#11) | 1984-2(#10) | 1984-1(#9) | 1983(#8) | 1982-2(#7) | 1982-1(#6) | 1981-2(#5)| 1981-1(#4)| 1980-2(#3)| 1980-1(#2)| 1979(#1) | DOWNLOAD ALL

Meeting programs

Archive: 10.6084/m9.figshare.5899651 (* hard copies of abstracts available) | 2018-2 | 2018-1 | 2017-2 | 2017-1 | 2016-2| 2016-1 | 2015-2 | 2015-1 | 2014-3 | 2014-2 | 2014-1 | 2013-2 | 2013-1 | 2012-2 | 2012-1 | 2011-2 | 2011-1 | 2010-2 | 2010-1 | 2009 | 2008-2 | 2008-1 | 2007-2 | 2007-1 | 2006-1+2 | 2005-1+2 | 2004-1+2 | 2003-1+2 | 2002-1+2 | 2001-1+2 | 2000-1+2 | 1999-1+2 | 1998-1+2 | 1997-1+2 | 1996-1+2 | 1995-1+2 | 1994-2 | 1994-1 | 1993-2 | 1993-1 | 1992-1+2 | 1991-1+2 | 1990-1+2 | 1989-1+2 | 1988-1+2 | 1987(EDBO) | 1987-3* | 1987-2 | 1987-1* | 1986-2 | 1986-1 | 1985-2* | 1985-1* | 1984-2 | 1984-1 | 1983-2 | 1983-1 | 1982-2 | 1982-1 | 1981-2 | 1981-1 | 1980-2 | 1980-1 | 1979-2 | 1979-1 | 1979-84 | 1978(#38) | 1978(#37)* | 1977(SSF)| 1977(#36) | 1977(#35) | 1977(#34) | 1976(#33) | 1976(#32) | 1976(#31) | 1975(#30) | 1975(#29) | 1975(#28) | 1973/4(#25-27)| 1972(#24) | 1972(#23) | 1971(#22) | 1971(#21) | 1971(#20) | 1970(SEB+SDB) | 1970(#18) | 1970(#17) | 1969(#16) | 1969(#15) | 1969(#14) | 1968(#13) | 1968(SEB+SDB) | 1968(#11) | 1967(#10) | 1967(#9) | 1966(#8) | 1966(#7) | 1966(#6) | 1965(#5) | 1965(#4) | 1965(#3) | 1964(#2) | 1964(#1) | DOWNLOAD ALL

Hopefully, the “open source” nature of the BSDB Archive , be it in its digital form or as hard copy collection, will attract wider interest and inspire others to join in and help develop its full potential – be it biologists browsing around, or (hobby) historians making systematic scientific use of it. But if you do so, please be so kind to share any new insights, anecdotes that come to mind or any knowledge that complements the information currently available. Also, if you hold additional documents that might add to the collection, we have now means to archive it in appropriate ways. Just send a quick email to comms@bsdb.organd we will take appropriate action!

BSDB Meeting Report: 70th Anniversary Spring Meeting

This year, is the BSDB’s 70th anniversary, and this was clearly reflected at our Spring Meeting, 15-18 April 2018 in Warwick! Apart from an outstanding speaker list, and the award of most BSDB medals & prizes of 2018, we saw a very special event with many extras, as is well described here by Dillan Saunders. Dillan undertook his BSc Honours with Michael Akam studying centipedes, is currently performing his MSc in the lab of Megan Davey date-mapping the developing limb bud of chick with novel transgenic technologies.  and will be returning to Cambridge later this year to begin The Wellcome Trust Developmental Biology PhD program. Dillan’s blog post aligns with a long-standing tradition of the BSDB to engage young members (see our archive blog), and we strongly encourage PhD students and postdocs to make their voice heard by writing reports or articles for our website and newsletter.


The British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB) recently held its annual Spring Meeting at the University of Warwick. This was no ordinary meeting, though it is fair to say that BSDB meetings rarely are. This Spring Meeting celebrated the 70th anniversary of the BSDB and did so excellently, birthday cakes and all. With a retrospective look at the past of the society, and fantastic speakers showcasing present and ongoing work, the stage was set for a meeting that not only celebrated a strong history, but also looked forward, critically yet hopefully, to the future of Developmental Biology and of the BSDB itself.

The conference began with a career workshop for students and post-docs (see our blog post). In keeping with the celebration of the BSDB’s birthday, the focus of the workshop was on staying in academia. A variety of speakers and other group leaders fielded questions and shared details of the personal journeys to have brought them to their current positions. I had the opportunity to speak to Henrik Semb – whose example shows that not everyone follows a straight, let alone predictable, career trajectory. Judith Kimble shared her views on not seeing the lab as a place of work, and finally I got to hear Ottoline Leyser’s thoughts on work-life balance; a phrase which misleadingly implies that the two are opposed to one another. It would however be in our best interests, she explained, to see work and life as overlapping and complementary to one another.

The career workshop

After the careers workshop came the first plenary talk, in which Eric Wieschaus explained his recent work on mesoderm invagination in Drosophila and how one transcriptional activation can lead to a sequence of events (Weng and Wieschaus, 2017). Thematically paired with this talk was Maria Leptin’s plenary lecture, in which she discussed the development of in silico models for actin dynamics in order to recapitulate mesoderm invagination (Belmonte et al., 2017).

Emilia receives the Beddington medal from Simon Bullock

Following a short break, the Beddington Medal was awarded to Emily Favuzzi for the best PhD thesis in Developmental Biology of the year, which she performed on the transcriptional networks at play during interneuron development (see our blog post). She then gave a talk that illustrated how meticulous and comprehensive her work was (Favuzzi et al., 2017). This was followed up by a plenary talk from Marianne Bronner on the transcriptional networks of specific populations of neural crest cells, with attention to how her work with lampreys shows that the neural crest has acquired additional functions in the jawed vertebrates (Green et al., 2017). Unfazed by technical difficulties with the final slides of the presentation, Bronner took on the role of the lamprey and humorously indicated on herself the location of the neural crest cells.

The evening was capped off by three events that celebrated the history, and looked into the future, of the BSDB and Developmental Biology as a whole. First, came two talks from historians of science, Nick Hopwood and Tim Horder. Hopwood’s talk detailed the story of the crystallization of modern Developmental Biology in the late ‘40s and ‘50s. He described how the London Embryologists Club began in 1948 and how it then broadened both its geographical location and the field that it represented to form the BSDB (see also our archive blog).

Nick Hopwood’s lecture about DB’s history

Off the back of the historians’ view of the past, came a panel discussion of the future of the field. The panel was made up of Ottoline Leyser, James Briscoe, Maria Leptin, Jonathan Slack, Judith Kimble and Patrick Lemaire. They fielded several thought-provoking questions from the audience, which led to a lively discussion. As might be expected from a big anniversary meeting, there was much reminiscing on the early days of molecular Developmental Biology in the 1980s, often referred to as the ‘Golden Age.’ When asked what made this era such an exciting time for Developmental Biology, Jonathan Slack noted that it was a time when developmental biologists were becoming dissatisfied with the explanations of the previous heyday of embryology in the 1930s.

In the subsequent discussion, Ottoline Leyser pointed out that, what with the advent of new technologies and ideas, we are in fact in the midst of a golden age for Developmental Biology. Indeed, though there are still some who believe that certain areas of Developmental Biology hold no more secrets, recent years have shown new developments in, for example, the study of the anterior-posterior axis in Drosophila (Clark and Akam, 2016) and the C. elegans cell lineage (Sammut et al., 2015).

Other points of discussion included the importance of studying development within the context of time and the great potential of computational modelling. Discussed also were the logistics of maintaining an idea of the overall picture without becoming too focused on a single model system. The final event of the day was an informal round table discussion where the points raised previously, and many others, were discussed at length over much wine.

Monday began with a plenary talk from Matthew Freeman, amusingly titled ‘Confessions of an ex-developmental biologist’, in which he described his current focus on cell signalling and the pertinence of Cell Biology to the understanding of development (e.g. Christova et al., 2013). Following this, the two morning sessions covered ‘TISSUE AND ORGAN DEVELOPMENT’ and ‘DEVELOPMENTAL GENE REGULATORY NETWORKS.’ I listened to James Briscoe’s talk on the Sonic Hedgehog morphogen gradient in the neural tube and the interesting mathematical models that his lab has used to explore the time and precision of its patterning. Virginia Papaioannou then spoke about the role of Tbx6 in left-right axis establishment (Concepcion et al., 2017).

Also in this session were complementing talks from Eileen Furlong (Mikhaylichenko et al., 2018) and Mike Levine (Lim et al., 2018) on the relationships between enhancers and promoters and how chromatin architecture regulates gene expression. After a lunch poster session, the afternoon sessions began with talks on ‘MECHANISMS OF GLOBAL GENE REGULATION’ and ‘CELL BIOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT’. That afternoon, I caught a talk by Robb Krumlauf, in which he showed some fascinating lamprey experiments which supplied further detail on the ancient interactions between retinoic acid and Hox genes. Following this, Caroline Telfer demonstrated her impressive quantity of PhD work on the upstream regulation of the GATA genes, and then Pavel Tomancak showed a combination of beautiful live imaging and computational models for serosa closure in Tribolium castaneum embryos. The day’s closing plenary lecture was given by Janet Rossant, which included her work on dramatically increasing CRISPR efficiency in early mouse blastocysts.

The highlight of this first evening was the announcement of the Waddington Medal and the Waddington Lecture. The most prestigious prize awarded by the BSDB, the Waddington Medal recognises an individual who has made major contributions to developmental biology in the UK. The recipient of the award is, by tradition, kept a secret until the president of the society awards the medal. Ottoline Leyser introduced the awardee of the medal, after a short bit of suspense and the interesting insight that the last three winners of the prize have been accomplished artists. The medal was awarded to Richard Gardner for his pioneering work on various aspects of early mouse development from clonal lineage analysis and transplantation to axis determination (see our blog post).

In his subsequent lecture, Richard Gardner detailed some of the highlights of his impressive career, punctuated by humorous anecdotes and intriguing details. For instance, he commented on the four passions of Sydney Smith (who taught Gardner at university): Darwin, embryology, Ming dynasty porcelain, and wine (most developmental biologists can relate to at least three). Gardner also acknowledged his students, his mentor Robert Edwards, and collaborators such as Mary Lyon and Martin Johnson.

After the Waddington lecture, was the student and post-doc social in which we were split into teams to create a development-themed piece of art. An hour of glitter, glue, and coloured card later, the products of our endeavours included a model of Waddington’s epigenetic landscape, an interactive and moving model of chick somite formation, and the winning entry, a performance piece showing the injection of labelled cells into a blastocyst.

On Tuesday morning, the opening plenary lecture was given by Sean Carroll. In a similar vein to Matthew Freeman, he described how pursuing his boyhood passion for snakes led him away from developmental biology and to interesting work on the evolution of proteins in snake venom.  I then attended the ‘EVO-DEVO’ session in the morning, which ran parallel to ‘STEM CELLS AND REGENERATION’. In this session, I listened to many fascinating talks, which included Patrick Lemaire, on his computer models of ascidian cell fate determination, Karen Sears on the development of several unique aspects of bat morphology, and Miltos Tsiantis on the evolution of leaf form and the identification of a key regulator of leaf shape (Vuolo et al., 2016). Finishing off the session, Peter Holland covered his group’s work on the ParaHox gene, Pdx, in a variety of different bilaterian species.

A second lunch poster session followed, and then the afternoon programming kicked into gear. These were talks grouped under the themes of ‘POSITIONAL INFORMATION’ and ‘CELL FATE’. In the former, Lee Niswander gave a talk on neural tube closure defects (Li et al., 2018), and in the latter, Olivier Pourquie spoke about the importance of using cell culture and iPSCs, which his lab used to generate human pre-somitic mesoderm-like cells. In a talk that very much followed the themes of the conference, James Sharpe acknowledged the 50th  anniversary of Lewis Wolpert’s proposal of the French Flag Problem and re-interpreted the potential solutions to the problem through his data indicating that digits are patterned by a Turing mechanism (Green and Sharpe, 2015).

The final order of business for the day was the BSDB’s annual general meeting. This was an interesting insight into the inner workings of the society, which involved the election of new members to the committee and the presentation of committee officers’ reports.

After the wrap up of the AGM was the conference dinner and party. This was a celebration worthy of marking 70 years of the BSDB – complete with balloons, good food, and plenty of wine. The dinner was topped off with cake, cut by four former presidents of the BSDB.

Also announced were the winners of the post-doc and PhD poster prizes (see our blog post), as well as the winners of the advocacy writing competition, which was initiated specifically for the 70th anniversary of the BSDB and saw submissions from students and post-docs on the history and future of the BSDB (see our blog post). Fuelled by the great atmosphere, and likely a bit of wine, the dancing began. It was a great experience to see everyone, at all career stages, let loose and enjoy themselves. Particularly popular were the Developmental Biology-themed raps, written and performed by Jerry aka Gerald H Thomsen PhD, and produced and mixed by Philip Larsen. Overall, it was an excellent and celebratory evening.

Gerald Thomsen, Josh Brickman and Philip Larsen

Rap 1: BSDB History (part I & II)

Rap 2: Morphogen Mix


The final morning of the meeting began with a plenary lecture from Ottoline Leyser. She spoke about her work with the plant hormone strigolactone, and its role in regulating the plasticity of branching, and the self-organising auxin network in plants (Ligerot et al., 2017).The enthralling lecture was enough to make anyone want to become a plant biologist. This was followed by two further plenary lectures from Connie Eaves, on the early haematopoietic cell lineage in humans (Sawai et al., 2016), and Edith Heard, on the role of X-chromosome chromatin architecture and its relationship to Xist and X-inactivation (Galupa and Heard, 2018). Then the Cheryll Tickle Medal was awarded to Christiana Ruhrberg (see our blog post) by Cheryll Tickle herself. The Cheryll Tickle Medal is given to a mid-career, female scientist for her outstanding achievements in developmental biology. Christiana Ruhrberg then gave a great lecture on her scientific career so far.

Of particular interest to me was how Ruhrberg neatly combined her early career work in neurogenesis and vasculogenesis to form the focus and direction of her group as a PI, working on the interplay between these two processes. Nicely linking in with the historical theme of the meeting, Ruhrberg noted that she was the first to have ever seen the current BSDB logo (which shows the progression of embryonic development), as the creator of the logo, Jeff Christiansen, was staying at her house when he designed it (see our blog post). The final lecture of the meeting was given by John Gurdon, on the stability and reversal of gene expression in development.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJgDCVrdfwA; w=520; h=405

This was my first BSDB meeting and it was overall an excellent experience. It showcased cutting-edge science and a great community, the strength of which was demonstrated by the creation of a scientific genealogy, which used pins and thread to plot mentor and mentee relationships as part of a huge interconnected network of developmental biologists.

Weaving pedigree networks: Eric Wieschaus, David Ish-Horowicz, Claudio Stern, Austin Smith

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the BSDB for the conference grant that enabled me to attend. The meeting gave me a new appreciation for the history of Developmental Biology and strengthened my excitement to be a part of its future. Here’s to the next 70 years of the BSDB!


Note: where possible published work relevant to the text has been cited.

  • Belmonte, J. M., M. Leptin and F. Nedelec (2017). “A theory that predicts behaviors of disordered cytoskeletal networks.” Mol Syst Biol 13(9): 941.
  • Christova, Y., C. Adrain, P. Bambrough, A. Ibrahim and M. Freeman (2013). “Mammalian iRhoms have distinct physiological functions including an essential role in TACE regulation.” EMBO Rep 14(10): 884-890.
  • Clark, E. and M. Akam (2016). “Odd-paired controls frequency doubling in Drosophila segmentation by altering the pair-rule gene regulatory network.” Elife 5.
  • Concepcion, D., A. J. Washkowitz, A. DeSantis, P. Ogea, J. I. Yang, N. C. Douglas and V. E. Papaioannou (2017). “Cell lineage of timed cohorts of Tbx6-expressing cells in wild-type and Tbx6 mutant embryos.” Biol Open 6(7): 1065-1073.
  • Favuzzi, E., A. Marques-Smith, R. Deogracias, C. M. Winterflood, A. Sanchez-Aguilera, L. Mantoan, P. Maeso, C. Fernandes, H. Ewers and B. Rico (2017). “Activity-Dependent Gating of Parvalbumin Interneuron Function by the Perineuronal Net Protein Brevican.” Neuron 95(3): 639-655 e610.
  • Galupa, R. and E. Heard (2018). “Topologically Associating Domains in Chromosome Architecture and Gene Regulatory Landscapes during Development, Disease, and Evolution.” Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol.
  • Green, J. B. and J. Sharpe (2015). “Positional information and reaction-diffusion: two big ideas in developmental biology combine.” Development 142(7): 1203-1211.
  • Green, S. A., B. R. Uy and M. E. Bronner (2017). “Ancient evolutionary origin of vertebrate enteric neurons from trunk-derived neural crest.” Nature 544(7648): 88-91.
  • Li, H., J. Zhang, S. Chen, F. Wang, T. Zhang and L. Niswander (2018). “Genetic contribution of retinoid-related genes to neural tube defects.” Hum Mutat 39(4): 550-562.
  • Ligerot, Y., A. de Saint Germain, T. Waldie, C. Troadec, S. Citerne, N. Kadakia, J. P. Pillot, M. Prigge, G. Aubert, A. Bendahmane, O. Leyser, M. Estelle, F. Debelle and C. Rameau (2017). “The pea branching RMS2 gene encodes the PsAFB4/5 auxin receptor and is involved in an auxin-strigolactone regulation loop.” PLoS Genet 13(12): e1007089.
  • Lim, B., T. Heist, M. Levine and T. Fukaya (2018). “Visualization of Transvection in Living Drosophila Embryos.” Mol Cell 70(2): 287-296 e286.
  • Sammut, M., S. J. Cook, K. C. Q. Nguyen, T. Felton, D. H. Hall, S. W. Emmons, R. J. Poole and A. Barrios (2015). “Glia-derived neurons are required for sex-specific learning in C. elegans.” Nature 526(7573): 385-390.
  • Sawai, C. M., S. Babovic, S. Upadhaya, D. Knapp, Y. Lavin, C. M. Lau, A. Goloborodko, J. Feng, J. Fujisaki, L. Ding, L. A. Mirny, M. Merad, C. J. Eaves and B. Reizis (2016). “Hematopoietic Stem Cells Are the Major Source of Multilineage Hematopoiesis in Adult Animals.” Immunity 45(3): 597-609.
  • Vuolo, F., R. A. Mentink, M. Hajheidari, C. D. Bailey, D. A. Filatov and M. Tsiantis (2016). “Coupled enhancer and coding sequence evolution of a homeobox gene shaped leaf diversity.” Genes Dev 30(21): 2370-2375.
  • Weng, M. and E. Wieschaus (2017). “Polarity protein Par3/Bazooka follows myosin-dependent junction repositioning.” Dev Biol 422(2): 125-134.


Get to know the new BSDB committee members

At the last AGM, held at the 2018 Spring Meeting in Warwick, five new BSDB committee members were elected to take term in autumn. They will replace the five leaving members: our Graduate Representative Alexandra Ashcroft,  Postdoc Representative Michelle Ware, Secretary Kim Dale, Meetings Officer Josh Brickman, and Communications Officer Andreas Prokop (see a complete list of committee members here). Please, read here about the new committee members, their careers, research interests and plans for their time on the committee.


Jessica Forsyth – the new Graduate Representative

I’m extremely happy to be acting as the new Graduate Representative for BSDB, following Alexandra Ashcroft who has worked to represent graduate students at meetings and enhance the student experience. I hope to further this work, and make sure the BSDB meetings continue to meet the needs of students at various stages within their academic careers (see Newsletter #37/38, 2016/17, p.30ff.).

As a Physics with Medical Physics graduate, I’m relatively new to the field of Developmental Biology. I made this switch when I applied for the Quantitative and Biophysical Biology programme at The University of Manchester. Now in my first year of my PhD, I’m completing two rotation projects within the department. In my first rotation project, I worked on the pre-implantation mouse embryo with Berenika Plusa, and started to develop a mathematical tool to match single cells across imaging modalities, together with Simon Cotter from the Mathematics department. Now I am currently working with Martin Baron, and attempting to develop a mathematical model which encompasses the role of Notch in Drosophila wing vein formation, and to inform this model with live imaging studies.

Changing fields for my PhD seemed daunting when applying, but having been a part of two labs, I realise that there is a huge role for Mathematics and Physics to play in Developmental Biology. This was confirmed in my recent attendance to the BSDB Spring Meeting, where numerous talks described their collaborations with more theoretical labs. I hope to encourage the attendance of more theoretically based labs to BSDB meetings to encourage collaborations across disciplines.

If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to contact me by email. I look forward to hearing from you and meeting you at the next BSDB meetings.


Charlotte Sophie Louise Bailey – the Postdoc Representative

Having completed my PhD in the field of vertebrate somitogenesis in the lab of Kim Dale at the University of Dundee, I am now a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Elke Ober at the Novo Nordisk Center for Stem Cell Biology (DanStem) in Copenhagen. I am interested in determining the cell behavioural dynamics underpinning liver regeneration in zebrafish.

I am honoured to have been elected to serve on the BSDB committee as postdoc representative. In this role, I aim to draw on my experiences in event management and public outreach to build on the fantastic work of my predecessor Michelle Ware to support postdoctoral scientists within the BSDB community (see the PhD/postdoc website and Facebook group).

For the budding young developmental biologist, the highlight of the scientific year has to be the BSDB Spring meeting – which I encourage every postdoc to attend! With an unfailingly engaging scientific and societal programme (Newsletter #37/38, 2016/17, p.30ff.), this annual meeting consistently stands apart as the forum to network within the Developmental Biology community and beyond, as well as offering exposure to a broad range of exciting, cutting edge science and ideas. As part of my role as BSDB postdoc representative, I aim to tackle the increasing demand by postdocs for interdisciplinary training and discussion by introducing workshops at the annual Spring Meeting with a focus on introducing and developing cross-disciplinary skill sets and network connections, such as Python/Matlab programming, big data mining and biophysics. These workshops could also be used as a bridge for discussion of career choices both inside and outside of academia and the development of transferable skills.

Undoubtedly, one of the strongest attributes of the BSDB is its great sense of community and inclusion. Following Brexit, sustaining a strong feeling of unity within the scientific community will be more important than ever to preserve the UK’s reputation as a welcoming and international environment for research excellence (see also ‘Chair’s welcome note’ in Newsletter #37/38, 2016/17, p.4f.). In conjunction with the The Company of Biologists, the BSDB offers amazing support to its early-career members both financially through travel grants to attend scientific meetings in the UK and abroad, and personally at the many meetings and workshops organised annually and through multimedia such as ‘the Node’, Facebook and Twitter (Vicente et al., 2017). I implore all postdocs to take advantage of these fantastic opportunities to engage with the BSDB and other subject-specific international societies to help us preserve and nurture our supportive global scientific community.

Take part and develop your potential as a developmental biologist! Become a member of the BSDB to receive all of these great benefits. Don’t forget to follow ‘The Node’ on their website, Twitter or Facebook and check the BSDB website regularly for many interesting posts and discussions.

Got an idea for a great workshop or event? Don’t hold back – get in touch with me by email.


Tanya T. Whitfield

Tanya is Professor of Developmental Biology at the University of Sheffield, where she is a member of the Bateson Centre and Department of Biomedical Science [LINK].

Tanya studied early Xenopus development for her PhD at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Chris Wylie.  In 1994, she was an EMBO short-term fellow in the lab of Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard in Tübingen, Germany, where she contributed to analysis of mutations affecting ear development isolated in a large-scale zebrafish mutagenesis screen for embryonic phenotypes.  She continued to work on these mutants as a postdoc in the lab of Julian Lewis, first at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Developmental Biology Unit in Oxford, and later in London.

Tanya established her lab in Sheffield in 1997 to continue work on the developing vertebrate inner ear, using the zebrafish as a model system. The ear is a fascinating system for study, due to its complex three-dimensional arrangement of interlinked ducts and chambers, and multitude of different cell types, including neurons, sensory hair cells, supporting and secretory cells.  An enduring interest in the lab has been the analysis of signalling events that pattern the anteroposterior axis of the otic placode, precursor of the inner ear.  More recently, a major focus has been on the dynamic epithelial rearrangements that generate the three semicircular canal ducts in the ear, and the use of light-sheet microscopy to image these events in real time in the live embryo.  Additional recent highlights from the lab include the identification of glycoproteins required for otolith tethering in the ear, and use of the zebrafish as a screening tool for drug discovery.

Tanya is a committed teacher of Developmental Biology, running courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the University of Sheffield.  Her lab also makes regular contributions to outreach events, introducing the public to the beauty and logic of embryonic development.


Shankar Srinivas

Shankar is Professor of Developmental Biology and a Wellcome Senior Investigator in the Department of Physiology Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford [LINK].

He completed his BSc in Nizam College in Hyderabad, India. He then joined the group of Frank Costantini in Columbia University, New York, where he received a PhD for work on the molecular genetics of kidney development. Following this, he moved to the NIMR in Mill Hill, London, where he worked as a HFSPO fellow in the groups of Rosa Beddington and Jim Smith on how the anterior-posterior axis is established. Here, he developed time-lapse microscopy approaches to study early post-implantation mouse embryos, characterising the active migration of cells of the Anterior Visceral Endoderm that is essential for the correct orientation of the anterior posterior axis of the embryo.

In 2004 Shankar started his independent group at the University of Oxford as a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow. His group has shown that the coordinated movement of AVE cells requires Planar Cell Polarity signalling and that a stereotypic multicellular-rosette arrangement of cells in the visceral endoderm is essential for normal AVE migration. Currently, the research in Shankar’s group focuses on two main areas. The first is to understand how the coordinated cell movements that shape the mammalian embryo prior to and during gastrulation are controlled. The second, more recent area is to understand how the heart starts to beat. Shankar’s group has shown that, during cardiogenesis, the cellular machinery for calcium oscillation matures before the sarcomeric machinery for contraction. Shankar’s group takes a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to address these questions, using techniques such as light-sheet and confocal time-lapse imaging, single cell approaches and embryo explant culture.

Shankar is also passionate about science outreach. His group participates regularly in science festivals, for which they have developed 3D printed models of developing embryos and a virtual reality based embryo and microscopy image volume explorer. For more information see Shankar’s public engagement page.


Jens Januschke

Jens is a Sir Henry Dale fellow at the School of Life Sciences at the university of Dundee running his lab in the division of Cell and Developmental Biology [LINK].

He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Cologne and moved for his PhD to the University Paris 7 where he got his degree in Genetics in the lab of Antoine Guichet, working on mRNA localization and microtubule-based transport in Drosophila oocytes trying to understand how the anterior posterior axis is specified in this system.

After his PhD he moved to the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB) in Barcelona to start working with neural stem cells, called neuroblasts in the developing fly brain in the group of Cayetano González. During this time, he worked on asymmetric centrosome segregation and discovered that mother and daughter centrioles are differently distributed during asymmetric neuroblast division and shed light on the molecular mechanisms controlling this process. This work identified the first daughter centriole specific protein in Drosophila, called Centrobin.

In 2013, Jens started his own group in the cell and developmental biology division of the school of life sciences at the University of Dundee, for which he obtained a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship funded by Wellcome and the Royal Society. Currently, his group focusses on the cell biological mechanisms that control neuroblast asymmetric cell division, which includes studying the establishment of cell polarity, fate determinant localisation and spindle orientation. Jens has been involved in organizing the Scottish Developmental Biology group meeting twice in Dundee and is currently a co-organiser of the UK Workshop on Developmental Cell Biology of Drosophila.

BSDB Medal & Award winners of 2018

This year was a special BSDB Spring Meeting! We celebrated the 70th anniversary of our society. If you weren’t there and would like to get a taste of the meeting, or you would like to relive the experience, please download the abstract book or listen to the especially composed history rap. As every year, the Spring meeting was the time of awards and medals! The BSDB would like to congratulate all awardees and prize winners, who are listed below. Some award presentations were filmed and the Company of Biologists team conducted a number of interviews with some of the prize winners. These will be linked out from here as they become available.

► Medal Awards

► Writing competition (PhD & postdoc – LINK)

  • winner (attendance at the 77th Annual SDB meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA): Daniyal Jafree (UCL) – “The paper in Developmental Biology that most inspired me
  • runner up: Laura Hankins (Dunn school, Oxford) – “Painting the embryo by numbers: how nature provided the tools for an inspirational experiment
  • runner up: Victoria Rook (Queen Mary, London) – “Is the future of developmental biology written in science fiction?

► PhD Poster Prizes

  • 1st Prize (attendance at the 77th Annual SDB meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA): Christian Louis Bonatto-Paesse (Oxford Brookes Univ.; McGregor group) – Poster 153 “A Sox gene is a key player in spider embryogenesis
  • 2nd Prize (£50 bank transfer): Natalie Kirkland (UCL, Paluch group) – Poster 4 “Investigating Mitotic Nuclear Dynamics of Pseudo-Stratified Epithelia in Drosophila melanogaster

► Postdoc Poster Prizes

  • 1st Prize (£200 bank transfer): Sarah Bowling (Imperial College London; Rodriguez group) – Poster 273 “P53 and mTOR signalling determine fitness selection through cell competition during early mouse embryonic development
  • 2nd Prize (£50 bank transfer): Michelle Percharde (UCSF) – Poster 135 “The LINE1 retrotransposon regulates early embryonic cell identity

► Other

  • BSDB Exhibition Passport Prize Winner (£200 Blackwell’s book tokens): Afnan Azizi (Univ. Cambridge)
  • The Dennis Summerbell Award will be announce at the next Autumn Meeting, but we would like to congratulate again the awardee of 2017: Helen Weaver (Univ. of Bristol)

Richard Gardner is the 2018 BSDB Waddington Medal winner

The Waddington Medal is the only national award in Developmental Biology. It honours outstanding research performance as well as services to the subject community. The medal is awarded annually at the BSDB Spring Meeting, where the recipient presents the Waddington Medal Lecture. Here we introduce the 2018 winner Richard Gardner who won the 2018 Waddington medal for his outstanding work in the field of early embryogenesis and stem cells, as well as continued contributions to the development of our field and the shaping of science policy in the UK.

Born in 1943,  Richard Lavenham Gardner, Kt, MA, PhD, ScD, FIAT(Hon), FRSB, FRS studied at St. Catharine’s College and the University of Cambridge from 1963-1966, graduating with a First Class Honours B.A. in Physiology. For his PhD, he remained in Cambridge in the Physiological Laboratory of Robert Edwards (Nobel prize winner, pioneer in reproductive medicine and in vitro fertilisation/IVF), where he worked alongside Martin Johnson and was awarded his title in 1971 for his thesis entitled “Investigation of the mammalian blastocyst by microsurgery”. He stayed on in Edward’s lab as a research assistant for another three years, from where he moved to a University Lecturer position at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (1973-77). During that time (and beyond) he was a Visiting World Health Organization Fellow in Warsaw and Zagreb and Student of Christ Church (Oxford). In 1978 he became Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Oxford until 2003. Thereafter he held position as Edward Penley Abraham Research Professor of the Royal Society (2003-8), honorary Visiting Professor at the University of York (2007-16), and is now an Associate at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Student of Christ Church, Oxford.

Scientifically, Richard is well known as a pioneer in the study of early mammalian development, having made many hugely important discoveries relating to the fate of cells in early mammalian development and the properties of stem cells derived from early embryos (see selected papers below). These were made possible by his strong knack for identifying important questions and addressing them in innovative and at the same time definitive ways, always with extremely elegant experimental design.

His numerous important scientific contributions include: being the first to use clonal analysis to fate map the early mouse embryo, along with experimental manipulations to assess the potency of individual cells, establishing how the germ line is segregated in the early embryo, and pioneering blastocyst injection for studying stem cell potency. His work laid essential foundations for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, now widely used in human fertility clinics, and for the embryonic stem cell (ESC) field. He was one of the pioneers developing and using micromanipulation techniques in mammalian embryos, the kind of technique now commonly used, for example for human IVF and cloning (such as the cloning of the sheep Dolly). He is also known for his work on embryonic stem cell derivation (together with Frances Brook), demonstrating that ESCs originate from the epiblast and that the most efficient method to derive them in mouse is to use delayed-implanting blastocysts (diapause blastocyst).

The four surviving ICRF Developmental Biology Unit group leaders – Philip Ingham, David Ish Horowicz, Richard Gardner and Jonathan Slack at the BSDB Spring Meeting 2018.

Awards and Honours

    • Waddington Medal of the British Society of Developmental Biology (2018)
    • Patrick Steptoe Memorial Lecturer and medallist (2015)
    • Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Cambridge (2012)
    • Annual Lecturer Cumberland Lodge (2010)
    • Honorary Fellow, St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, UK (2007)
    • Knight Batchelor in the Queens’ Birthday Honours (2005)
    • Albert Brachet Prize of the Belgian Royal Academy (2004)
    • Karl Beyer Visiting Professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA (2001)
    • Royal (Queen’s) Medal of the Royal Society (2001)
    • March of Dimes International Prize in Developmental Biology (1999)
    • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1979)
    • Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London (1977)
    • Belfield-Clarke Prize for the Biological Sciences (1966)
    • Elected Scholar of St. Catharine’s College (1966)
    • Kitchener Scholar (1963-66)
    • Prizes for Physics and Biology (1963)
    • First Prize in Natural History Essay (1959)
    • First Prize in Natural History Essay (1958)

Throughout his education and scientific career, Richard has excelled in outstanding performance, as is clearly demonstrated by the long list of awards and honours (see Box); and he has always been a committed member of the Developmental Biology community who contributed notably also in policy making relating to ethical issues connected with access and use of human embryos in research, ethical aspects of cloning, and ethical use of animals in research. His dedication is clearly reflected in the many important positions he served in throughout his career:

  • Editor of the journal Development (formerly J. Embryol. Exp. Morph, 1977-91) and editorial board member of the journals Gamete Research, Placenta and Cancer Surveys
  • President of the Institute of Animal Technology (1986-2006)
  • Independent Member of the Advisory Board for the Research Council (1989-93)
  • together with Walter Bodmer (head of ICRF) he co-founded the Cancer Research UK Developmental Biology Unit at Oxford’s Zoology Department (attracting the likes of Andy Copp, David Ish Horowitz, Jonathan Slack, Julian Lewis and Phil Ingham), of which he was Honorary Director (1986-96)
  • Vice President of the Zoological Society of London (1991-92)
  • Vice-President and Member of the Laboratory Animal Science Association Council (1996-99)
  • Trustee and then chair of the Edward Penley Abraham Research Fund (1999, 2003)
  • President of the Institute of Biology (now Royal Society of Biology; 2007- 08)
  • Chair of the Royal Society Working Group on Stem Cells and Therapeutic Cloning (1998-08)
  • Chair of the Animals in Science Education Trust (AS-ET; current)
  • Author of numerous reports to commissions, committees and inquiries of significant political impact
  • Organiser of various scientific conferences, meetings or discussion forums.

Richard’s enormous influence is also reflected in the fact that he was mentor to many illustrious embryologists, including Janet Rossant (PhD, 1976), Andrew Copp (DPhil, 1978), John Heath (DPhil, 1979), Paul Tesar (DPhil, 2007), Virginia E. Papaioannou (postdoc, 1973-81), Jenny Nichols (PhD, 1990), Karen Downs (1989-93) and the recipient of the 1999 Waddington medal Rosa Beddington (D. Phil., 1983) – to name but a few.

But it should also be pointed out that aside all this prolific work in science as well as science administration and policy, Richard still has been finding time for an impressive number of hobbies, of which he lists ornithology, music, sailing (unfortunately no longer!), gardening, clay shooting and painting landscapes in watercolour. To illustrate Richard’s continued dedication, he donated his latest three watercolour paintings to the AS-ET and they were sold for a gratifying £1150 to provide bursaries and other awards to enable laboratory animal technicians to advance their education and training.

The BSDB would like to congratulate Richard Gardner for the Waddington award, of which he certainly is a most worthy recipient.

An eclectic selection of some of Richard Gardner’s major landmarks publications:

    1. Gardner, RL (1968) Mouse chimeras obtained by the injection of cells into the blastocyst. Nature 220: 596-7This paper describes the method of blastocyst injection in which small groups of donor cells derived from a genetically-distinct blastocyst are injected into the blastocoel cavity of a host blastocyst; chimeric blastocysts are then transferred to a foster mother and gestated to term. The paper also demonstrates that blastocyst cells contribute to the adult animal and germ line. The technique of blastocyst injection is still used routinely both to generate transgenic mouse models using genetically-modified embryonic stem cells.
    2. Gardner RL, Lyon MF (1971) X chromosome inactivation studied by injection of a single cell into the mouse blastocyst. Nature 231: 385-6Using blastocyst injection of single inner cell mass (ICM) cells combined with genetic markers, this paper shows that the adult animal is derived from the ICM. It is also a landmark paper in the history of the discovery of X-inactivation.
    3. Gardner RL, Papaioannou VE, Barton SC. (1973) Origin of the ectoplacental cone and secondary giant cells in mouse blastocysts reconstituted from isolated trophoblast and inner cell mass. J Embryol Exp Morphol. 30: 561-72In contrast to “blastocyst injection” (above) to determine the fate/potency of ICM cells via injection into the blastocoel cavity, the technique of “blastocyst reconstitution” was created to discover the fate and potency of the trophectoderm. The paper demonstrates that the trophectoderm gives rise to major components of the chorionic component of the placenta but not to the embryo proper. This allowed him to create the first fate maps of the mouse conceptus.
    4. Gardner, RL (1982) Investigation of cell lineage and differentiation in the extraembryonic endoderm of the mouse embryo. J Embryol Exp Morphol. 68: 175-98At implantation, the ICM segregates into epiblast and primitive endoderm (PE). Using blastocyst injection, this paper shows that PE generates visceral and parietal endoderm, which are supporting tissues for the ICM-derived epiblast. This study expanded the mouse fate map to show that ICM gives rise to epiblast and primitive endoderm.
    5. Gardner RL, Meredith MR, Altman DG. (1992) Is the anterior-posterior axis of the fetus specified before implantation in the mouse? J Exp Zool. 264: 437-43This paper provides the first evidence that head-tail orientation of the early embryo is established prior to the overt appearance of the primitive streak.
Acknowledgements: Andreas Prokop would like to thank Berenika Plusa for helpful information, Richard Gardner for sending information, images and approving the draft of this article, and Claudio Stern and Jonathan Slack for helpful information and thoughts taken from their nomination text.

The Waddington lecture