Scientific Advisory Board

In its effort to oversee the mission of the Mechanobiology Institute to establish itself as a global leader in developing a robust multi-disciplinary approach to the study of Mechanobiology, the Governing Board and the Director of MBI are advised by the MBI Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).

Appointed by the Chairman of the Governing Board, the SAB makes annual visits to MBI to review research programmes and projects of the Mechanobiology Institute and provide counsel and recommendations to the Board and the Director of MBI.

The first Scientific Advisory Board was appointed in 2010 chaired by Prof Daniel Louvard (Institut Curie) and formed by members Prof Ueli Aebi (University of Basel), Prof Albert Libchaber (Rockefeller University) and Prof James Spudich (Stanford University). This Board served a term of 3 years. In 2013, a new Board was appointed consisting of Chairman Prof Daniel Louvard (Institut Curie), and members Prof Mary Beckerle (Huntsman Cancer Institute) and Prof Ueli Aebi (University of Basel).

MBI’s Scientific Advisory Board

DanielLouvardDaniel Louvard (Chair)

Research Director, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
Professor, Pasteur Institute
Director of Research Center, Institut Curie

Prof Louvard was awarded his PhD in Biochemistry in 1973 and Physical Sciences in 1976. From 1978 to 1982 he was a head of team at the European Molecula Biology Laboratory (EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany), after which he joined the Institut Pasteur where from 1988 to 1990 he was the Director of the Molecular Biology Department, and since 1990 has been Associate Professor at the Institut Pasteur. He was appointed Director of Research by the CNRS in 1986 and Director of the Research Center of the Institut Curie in 1993.

Prof Louvard is also head of the Morphogenesis and Cell Signaling Laboratory (Institut Curie / CNRS UMR 144). The research interests of this group include the role of motor proteins in intracellular trafficking and signaling pathways in cancer inititiation and progression, particularly in colorectal cancer.  Prof Louvard has authored 290 publications (13 157 citations; h-index of 74) and 20 patents.
 Prof Louvard is a member of numerous scientific committees of the CNRS and Inserm, ad hoc committees and scientific organizations such as EMBO, the French Academy of Sciences, and Academia Europa, the European Academy of Cancer Sciences, and has served as Chairman of a Scientific Committee of the Human Frontier Science Program.

Formerly Vice-Chairman of the government’s mission to focus on cancer (2002-2003), Prof Louvard was permanent advisor to the government’s interdepartmental cancer plan (2003 to 2005), and since January 2005 has been Vice-Chairman of the International Scientific Board of the French National Cancer Research Institute (INCa).

Prof Louvard was or still is a member of various editorial boards, including those of the EMBO Journal, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, and Gastroenterology, and is editor of the Journal of Cell Science. Learn more about Prof Louvard.

MaryBeckerleMary Beckerle

Ralph E and Willia T Main Presidential Professor
Distinguished Professor of Biology
CEO and Director, Huntsman Cancer Institute
Associate Vice President of Cancer Affairs, University of Utah

Prof Beckerle is CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute and Associate Vice President for Cancer Affairs at the University of Utah. Prof Beckerle joined the faculty of the University of Utah in 1986, and is a distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences, holding the Ralph E and Willia T Main Presidential Professorship.

Prof Beckerle’s research has defined a novel molecular pathway that regulates cell motility, and her lab is currently focused on understanding the impact of this pathway on tumor progression, particularly in Ewing’s sarcoma. Her scientific work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Cancer Society for over 23 years. Prof Beckerle is the principal investigator of Huntsman Cancer Institute’s NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG).

An active participant in national and international scientific affairs, Prof Beckerle served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in 2006, and was recently appointed to the American Association of Cancer Research Science Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee. She has served on numerous strategic planning and peer review committees for the NIH. She has served on the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director and as President of the American Cancer Society Council for Extramural Grants. In addition to serving on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore, she currently serves on the Scientific Review Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Coalition for Life Sciences Board of Directors, and the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Center for Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the premiere life sciences research institute in India. In 2013, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In 2000, Prof Beckerle was appointed as a Guggenheim Fellow and a Rothschild-Yvette Mayent Award Scholar at the Curie Institute in Paris. She received the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology in 2001, the Sword of Hope Award from the American Cancer Society in 2004, and the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence (the University of Utah’s highest honor) in 2007. Prof Beckerle was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008. Learn more about Prof Beckerle.


UeliAebiUeli Aebi

Emeritus Professor, M.E. Müller Institute for Structural Biology at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland
Member of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) 
Member of the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR)

Prof Aebi holds master degrees in physics and molecular biology. He earned his Ph.D. in biophysics in 1977 from the University of Basel. In 1977/78, he worked as a senior research associate in protein crystallography at the University of California in Los Angeles. In 1979 he joined the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, holding appointments in the Departments of Cell Biology and Anatomy, and in Dermatology. In 1986 he moved to the Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland where he built a world-class structural biology division that integrates X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, and light, electron and scanning probe microscopies. Until the end of 2011 he was Professor and Director of the M.E. Müller Institute for Structural Biology at the Biozentrum. He has also been a member of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) and the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR)“Nanoscale Science” where he co-directed the project module “Nanobiology and Nanomedicine” (2001-2009).

Prof Aebi’s lab has had a long-standing interest in understanding biomolecular machines by a hybrid methods experimental approach that includes light, electron and scanning probe microscopies, X-ray crystallography, molecular cell biology and protein design. His research focused on (1) the cytoskeleton; (2) nucleocytoplasmic transport; and (3) protein fibrillation.

Prof Aebi has co-authored over 300 original research articles, reviews and book chapters. Among the numerous honors and awards, he is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and of the Academia Europaea; in 2002 he was awarded the G.J. Mendel Medal by the Czech Academy of Sciences; in 2007 he was given a Dr. honoris causae by the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University in Prague; in 2008 he received the Arne Engström Award by the International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB); and in 2011 he obtained the Carl Zeiss Lecture Award by the German Society for Cell Biology and was the recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Award by the Microscopy Society of America. From 2004 to 2008 he was President of the European Microscopy Society (EMS); and since 2011 he has been the President of the Swiss Society for Biochemistry.

In addition, Prof Aebi has more than 30 years of business experience. In 1981 he co-founded Protek, Inc. to develop, manufacture, and sell hip and knee prostheses in the USA. From 1986 to 1991 he served on the Technical Board of Protek AG in Switzerland. Since 1996 he has been chairing the Board of Directors of Gehring Cut that develops and manufactures surgical instruments and other precision mechanical components. In 2003 he co-founded Therapeomic, Inc. that focuses on novel protein drug formulations and growth factor enhanced tissue repair. In 2005 he joined the Board of Directors of Alpha-O Peptides, a biotech start-up company that develops novel repetitive antigen display, diagnostic imaging and drug targeting/delivery platforms on the basis of the de novo design of polyhedral peptide nanoparticles. From 2004 to 2011 he has been President of the Basel Tumor Bank Foundation, which administers and annotates one of the largest breast tumor registries, and conducts work on biomolecular expression profiling of breast tumors aimed at individualized diagnosis, risk assessment, therapy and follow-up. Learn more about Prof Aebi.

SABmemberMariaLeptinMaria Leptin

Director, EMBO
Professor, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
Member of Academia Europaea
Chair, Grant Evaluation Panel for the European Research Council
Editorial Board for Developmental Cell

Maria Leptin received her PhD in 1983 for work on B cell activation carried out at the Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland, under the supervision of Fritz Melchers. She switched to the study of development in Drosophila when she joined the laboratory of Michael Wilcox at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, UK, for her postdoctoral work on Drosophila integrins. After a research visit at the laboratory of Pat O’Farrell at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she began her work on gastrulation, she spent 1989-1994 as a group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany. In 1994, she became Professor at the Institute of Genetics University of Cologne.

In January 2010, Maria Leptin became the Director of EMBO and established a research group in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).

The group studies cell biology and biophysics of cell shape changes and the mechanism of innate immunity. Professor Leptin is an elected member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea. She also serves on the editorial boards of Developmental Cell and Developmental Biology and on the advisory boards of several academic institutions. She has chaired and is a member of one of the evaluation panels for European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grants. Learn more about Prof Leptin.

2016-sci-advisory-board-fiona-wattFiona Watt

Director, Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London
Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Fiona Watt obtained her first degree from Cambridge University and her DPhil, in cell biology, from the University of Oxford. She was a postdoc at MIT, where she first began studying differentiation and tissue organisation in mammalian epidermis. She established her first research group at the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology and then spent 20 years at the CRUK London Research Institute. She helped to establish the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research and in 2012 she moved to King’s College London to found the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. Fiona Watt is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She is internationally recognised for her work on stem cells and their interactions with the niche in healthy and diseased skin.

Fiona Watt is director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. She is internationally recognised for her work on stem cells and their interactions with the niche in healthy and diseased skin. Read more about her research at

2016-sci-advisory-board-david-drubinDavid Drubin

Editor in Chief of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC)
Co-chair, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

David Drubin has served on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley for 28 years.  His research combines live cell imaging, molecular and cell biology, genetics and biochemistry. The primary focuses of his research are the cytoskeleton and membrane trafficking events.  He studies these processes in budding yeast and mammalian cells.  In recent years his lab has begun to genome edit human stem cells for investigations of how the cytoskeleton and membrane trafficking events are altered during differentiation to serve the specific biological demands of the differentiated cells. Through collaboration with Fyodor Urnov and his colleagues at Sangamo Biosciences, David’s lab became the first to use genome editing to express fluorescent fusion proteins at native levels in mammalian cells to avoid perturbing the processes being investigated.

Currently, David is Editor in Chief of the American Society for Cell Biology’s research journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell.  Previously, he served as Head of the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology and the Graduate Program in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.  He has served on numerous editorial boards and NIH grant review study sections, and has organized several international research conferences. In 1999 he was Program Chair for the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual national meeting.  He received the Ira Herskowitz Award from the Genetics Society of America in 2008 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

David earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at UC Berkeley working on transcription enzymology with Michael Chamberlin, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics with Marc Kirschner at the University of California, San Francisco.  He performed his postdoctoral studies with David Botstein at MIT. Read more about Prof Drubin.

photos-david-weitz-oldDavid A Weitz

Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Director of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Co-Director of the BASF Advanced Research Initiative, Member, Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology

Weitz received his PhD in physics from Harvard University and then joined Exxon Research and Engineering Company.  He then became a professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania and moved to Harvard at the end of the last millennium as professor of physics and applied physics. Learn more about his research at