The Institute of Human Genetics celebrates its 20th anniversary

June 7th and 8th 2018 - Faculty of Medicine Campus Arnaud de Villeneuve in Montpellier.

The Institute of Human Genetics celebrates its 20th anniversary. Twenty years of a successful human and scientific adventure. 1998 marked the end of the construction of the Institute and the establishment of all groups. Thereupon, IGH took off and ten years later, the Institute had become an organized workplace with a friendly, supportive and inspiring scientific environment. Today, after 20 years of existence, IGH has attained full maturity and it shows remarkable achievements. Our engagement for the coming years is to consolidate, maintain and improve our strengths and to create bridges between IGH, clinicians and industry enabling the practical application of our discoveries.

The success of the IGH is the outcome of a collective effort. I would like to warmly thank the 5 successive directors, but also all groups, researchers, scientific technicians and engineers, PhD students and postdocs as well as the technological facilities and administrative staff, who made this possible.

Lastly, we are extremely glad to welcome on this occasion 14 outstanding scientists for a series of communications. We thank them most heartily.

Happy IGH 20th anniversary to all of you.
Monsef Benkirane,


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Keynote Speaker
Jules Hoffmann, IBMC Strasbourg, FR

Jules Hoffmann is the Chair for Developmental Biology at the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study and Emeritus Research Director at CNRS.  His work has provided new insights into the defense mechanisms that organisms, from the most primitive up to humans, employ against infectious agents. By demonstrating the marked conservation of innate defense mechanisms between insects and humans, the work initiated by Hoffmann and his collaborators has led to a re-evaluation of the role of innate immunity in mammals. More generally, the Drosophila model has enabled biologists throughout the world to make considerable progress, not only in developmental genetics and innate immunity but also in the study of certain human pathologies and in the understanding of memory, behavior, sleep and nutrition phenomena. With Bruce A. Beutler and Ralph M. Steinman, Hoffmann was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2011.

Cell & developmental biology

Daniel Durocher, University of Toronto, CA
Nick Hastie, MRC, Edinburg, UK
Hervé Chneiweiss, IBPS, Paris, FR
Martine Simonelig, IGH, Montpellier, FR

Chromatin & epigenetics

Kristian Helin, BRIC, Copenhagen, DK
Rob Martienssen, CSHL, New York, US
Bernard de Massy, IGH, Montpellier, FR
Marcel Méchali, IGH, Montpellier, FR

Nuclear organization

Wendy Bickmore, MRC, Edinburg, UK
Jérôme Déjardin, IGH, Montpellier, FR
Amos Tanay, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, IL
Giacomo Cavalli, IGH, Montpellier, FR
Geneviève Almouzni, Institut Curie, Paris, FR


Daniel Durocher

Daniel Durocher’s overarching interest lies in understanding how cells maintain genome integrity, with an emphasis on the detection, signaling and repair of DNA double-strand breaks. He is widely recognized for having established ubiquitin as a central organizing molecule in DNA damage repair and Dr. Durocher’s work has recently expanded to address how the cell cycle regulates DNA double-strand break repair, and as part of these studies his group is now keenly interested in developing means to manipulate DNA repair to improve genome editing outcomes.


Nick Hastie

did his PhD on Influenza virus replication in Cambridge and since then has worked on many areas of mammalian genetics and biology, including gene expression, genome organisation and dynamics (telomeres) and protein evolution. For the past 25 years, he has focussed more on Developmental Genetics, particularly trying to elucidate the mechanisms by which mutations in the Wilms’ tumour gene, WT1, lead to a variety of human disorders. This has taken him into the worlds of developmental switches, tissue homeostasis and repair and stem cells e.g. visceral fat.


Hervé Chneiweiss

is a neurologist and neuroscientist, MD-PhD, Research Director at the CNRS. First trained as a neurologist (gait and movement disorders, Parkinson), he was involved in the neurogenetics of human diseases such as cerebellar ataxias. His scientific work was also dedicated to the biology of astrocytes and their roles in brain tumour origin and progression. Glioblastoma (GBM) is characterized by high intra-tumor heterogeneity, resulting from mixing clonal selection of genomic variants and dynamic fluctuations in cell functional states. His team contributed in recent progress in identifying cell-intrinsic mechanisms orchestrating GBM cells plasticity. Technical approaches include proteomics, metabolism, epigenetic, cell cultures, and animal models.


Martine Simonelig

has made seminal contributions to the field of mRNA regulation during development. Her lab discovered the role of a specific class of small non-coding RNAs that are produced from transposable elements, in the regulation of gene expression programs, thus revealing key developmental functions of transposable elements. Her group also developed Drosophila models of pathologies involving RNA granules, to address disease physiopathology and explore innovative therapeutic strategies. Throughout her career, she has promoted women in science by training and inspiring many young female scientists.


Kristian Helin

is the founding Director of BRIC and Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen. The major goal of the research in his laboratory is to contribute to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer and to identify proteins that are required for cancer maintenance as potential new targets for therapy. Over the years, the lab has made several important discoveries, including the identification and molecular characterization of several families of chromatin-associated proteins and their role in stem cells and cancer.


Geneviève Almouzni

is Director of the Research Center at Institut Curie. Her research has made several key contributions to the field of chromatin, from development of in vitro assays to identification of the role of important histone chaperones and variants. Over the years, she has expanded her research interests to various aspects of DNA metabolism including DNA repair and replication and the use of a diverse array of experimental systems. Her current research interests include understanding the basic principles of 3D organization in the nucleus and their interrelationships with genome stability. These studies are pursued in the context of the cell cycle, development and pathologies such as tumorigenesis.


Rob Martienssen

is a Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Research in his laboratory focuses on epigenetic mechanisms that shape and regulate the genome, and their impact on development and inheritance. His work on transposable elements in plants and repetitive sequences in fission yeast revealed a link between heterochromatin and RNA interference for which he received the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Award in 2003.


Bernard de Massy

engineer in agronomy and doctor in microbiology created his own group at the Institute of Human Genetics in 1998 where he developed novel strategies to study in mice the process of homologous recombination during meiosis. His projects have led to major breakthroughs in the field with the identification of several genes essential for this process and specifically for the formation of the programmed DNA double strand breaks that initiate meiotic recombination events.


Wendy Bickmore

is fascinated by the structure and organization of chromatin in the nucleus. Her group showed that different human chromosomes have preferred positions in the nucleus, related to their gene content, and addressed how genes are organized and packaged in the nucleus and how they move in the cell cycle and during development. She demonstrated that the polycomb repressive complex functions by compacting higher-order chromatin at target loci. Current research in her laboratory focuses on how the spatial organization of the nucleus influences genome function in development and disease, including how enhancers communicate with their target gene promoters.


Marcel Méchali

made pioneering discoveries on the regulation of DNA replication. He proposed a new concept in which the organization of replication origins is coupled with cell identity during development and differentiation. His findings opened new perspectives for understanding metazoan evolution and how unbalances between cellular proliferation and differentiation may lead to cancer. Méchali’s group also identified the first consensus sequence at metazoan origins: the G-Rich Repeated Element (OGRE) motif that potentially forms G-quadruplexes at replication origins.  Finally, his laboratory discovered several new factors involved in DNA replication, among which CDT1, the main licensing factor at replication origins, and MCM8 and MCM9, both involved in DNA replication, recombination and repair.


Amos Tanay

is an Associate Professor and Kimmel investigator in the department of Computer Science and the department of Biological Regulation at the Weizmann Institute. His lab is combining computational and experimental work to study genomic and epigenomic regulation at multiple scales, from the nucleotide level and up to the physical conformations of entire chromosomes. By developing quantitative, high-resolution experiments, the group explores how heterogeneous populations of single cells within tissues acquire, memorize, and later modify their functional states.


Giacomo Cavalli

made seminal contributions in the field of epigenetics. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, he discovered that epigenetic inheritance of new phenotypes can occur independently on changes of the DNA sequence. His lab also discovered that the three dimensional organisation of chromosome in the cell nucleus is a heritable trait that plays an important gene regulatory role. The Cavalli lab identified 3D structural chromosomal domains dubbed Topologically Associating Domains or TADs. Finally, the Cavalli lab has shown that PcG proteins have tumor suppression activity in flies.

Partners and supports to health research

logo erclogo europeEuropean Research Council (ERC)

The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The aim here is to recognize the best ideas, and confer status and visibility on the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon is the President of the European Research Council since 2014. A mathematician by training, he spent his whole career as a fellow of the CNRS and, from 1986 to 2012, as Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique. In his talk, Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon will outline the possibilities granted by the ERC in the current funding programs and shape the ERC’s future under the next European Framework Program.

logo bettencourBettencourt Schueller Foundation

”Taking talent to the top” is the approach chosen by the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation nearly 30 years ago to contribute to a better French society and boost France’s influence on the international stage. Created by a family, the Foundation trusts in people and their capacities, emphasizing initiative, creativity, quality and openness. Its convictions define its spirit and ways of working – in the common interest, not for profit, and with social responsibility in mind.
The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation focuses its actions on three main fields of engagement: life sciences, the arts, and social progress. As regards, more specifically, the life sciences, the Foundation supports initiatives for scientific research, training and the promotion of scientific culture.

Armand de Boissière is the Secretary General of the Foundation. For the IGH 20th anniversary, he will address the different prizes, grants and structural actions the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation offers to the health research community.

logo allianzFondation Allianz – Institut de France

The ‘Fondation Allianz – Institut de France’ encourages all actions related to health prevention and cure. In partnership with the French Academy of Sciences, the ‘Fondation Allianz – Institut de France’ notably awards every year since 1984 a Research Prize to a medical or biomedical research investigator whose work led to or may lead in a short term to clinical applications capable of increasing life expectancy by prevention or curative actions.

Sophie Pelet-Prigent, in charge of the ‘Fondation Allianz – Institut de France’ for the Corporate Social Responsibility Direction of Allianz France, will present us Allianz actions in support to health research.

logo msdMSDAvenir

MSDAVENIR is a support fund for French life sciences research. Created in 2015, it has been allocated 75 million euros over three years. It aims at improving patients’ life through the reaching of research and innovation public-private partnerships. To date, over 40 research programs have been funded throughout the country in seven major therapeutics areas: diabetes, cardiometabolism, immunology and rheumatology, genetics, infectiology, neurology and oncology. MSDAVENIR selects projects overall for their original and innovative approach and their expected impact on health research.  

Dominique Blazy is the President of MSDAVENIR Scientific Council and Medical Director of MSD France. In his talk, he will outline MSD engagement towards academic fundamental research and provide an assessment of the MSDAVENIR initiative after three years of existence.

Art at IGH: The ‘Plumes et Génome’ project

Plumes et Génome, when an artistic fantasy meets a scientific world…

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Plumes et Génome is a crosstalk between Sylvaine Jenny, artist established in Montpellier, and the research groups of the Institute of Human Genetics (IGH). Born for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Institute, this project, that mixes science and art, allows IGH to open its research to society and to present its works with an original, poetic and accessible view.

The aim of the project is two-fold : the Plumes et Génome exhibition to be unveiled on this June 7th 2018 during the gala evening, and an hardback edition to be soon published. The exhibition is composed of 32 paintings in watercolour and pen, illustrating the IGH scientific research, and the supporting administrative and technical activities. The publication will embed these illustrations as well as about 15 additional ones, which Sylvaine Jenny will realise as a live demonstration during the series of conferences given for the IGH 20th anniversary.

The artist

Sylvaine Jenny is a painter, graphist, illustrator and plastic artist. She graduated at the ‘Ecole supérieure des arts appliqués Dupéré’ and started practicing as Chief decorator for animated movies and video games, before producing sets and various graphical tools for theater and finally opening her workshop in Montpellier. Sylvaine draws inspiration from themes as diverse as Greek mythology, childhood, nature or futuristic engineering and she captures daily-life scenes with a poetic lightness recalling Sempé’s work. In recent years, she has developed the ‘Plumes Nomades’ project, proposing impromptu drawings in public during a congress, a festival, a demonstration. She dabbles thus different professional sectors, from private insurance to scientific research or criminalistics. Plumes et Génome is a variation on the ‘Plumes Nomades’.

Our partners and sponsors

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