Prof. Dr. Alexander Schier
Alex Schier obtained his PhD from the Biozentrum in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied the transcriptional regulation of homeobox genes in Walter Gehring's lab. He spent his postdoc in Wolfgang Driever's lab in Boston, where he screened for and characterized mutants affecting zebrafish development. He started his lab in 1996 at the Skirball Institute of the New York University School of Medicine and joined Harvard University in 2005, where he was the Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. In 2018 Dr. Schier became Director of the Biozentrum Basel.
Dr. Schier’s lab has contributed to the understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of embryogenesis and behavior and to the development of zebrafish as a model system. For example, his lab demonstrated that the Nodal-Lefty system constitutes a Turing reaction-diffusion pair, identified a co-ligand, a co-receptor, and a feedback inhibitor of the Nodal morphogen pathway, discovered that the microRNA miR-430 promotes the degradation of maternal mRNAs, and isolated Toddler as a motogenic signal that promotes gastrulation. More recently, Dr. Schier has developed technologies for understanding development at global scales through large-scale reconstruction of lineage trees and differentiation trajectories. His lab has also contributed to the analysis of neural circuits and behavior. For example, he and his collaborators studied the role of developmental signaling pathways during nervous system formation and developed zebrafish as a model to study the regulation of sleep by neuropeptides and drugs and for the analysis of genes implicated in psychiatric disorders. The Schier lab has also contributed to the development of zebrafish as a model system; e.g. positional cloning; synteny conservation cloning; germ-line replacement to generate maternal-effect mutants; target protector morpholinos; photobleaching and photoconversion to study protein dynamics; drug behavioral profiling; identification of long non-coding RNAs and small peptides; construction of gene expression and brain activity atlases; lineage tracing through genomic barcode editing; reconstruction of differentiation trajectories through scRNA-seq.
Dr. Schier received a NIH MERIT award in 2016, a NIH Pioneer Award in 2017 and an ERC Advanced Grant starting in 2020. He was elected to EMBO in 2018 and his research was featured as Science Breakthrough of the Year 2018. Members of his lab have gone on to PI positions at leading institutions, including Princeton, Caltech, UCLA, University of Toronto, Yale, NYU School of Medicine, University College London, MPI Dresden, UCSD, IMP Vienna, and MPI Tuebingen.