Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, is the 2019 Developmental Biology-Society for Developmental Biology Lifetime Achievement Award winner for her outstanding and sustained contributions in the field, exceptional mentoring, and service to the scientific community.
Nüsslein-Volhard has spent her career studying pattern formation in both flies and fish. She and Eric Wieschaus carried out a large-scale mutagenesis screen where they identified genes essential to establishing the Drosophila body plan. Her group characterized the role of Dorsal, Toll and Cactus in dorsoventral patterning in the early embryo. Fascinated with morphogens early in her career, Nüsslein-Volhard’s lab was the first to show that in a concentration dependent manner, Bicoid determined positional identity within the Drosophila blastoderm, thus identifying Bicoid as the first known morphogen.
In the early 1990s, Nüsslein-Volhard began to tackle vertebrate pattern formation using zebrafish. She again coordinated a large-scale mutagenesis screen where her group characterized thousands of zebrafish mutants with patterning defects. This screen helped build the foundation for zebrafish research across the globe for decades to come. Today her lab focuses on pigment patterning in the adult zebrafish.
The amazing scientists Nüsslein-Volhard has trained are truly a who’s who in developmental biology. In 2004, she founded the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation. It provides financial support to young women trainees toward childcare and household chores in order to give them the freedom and mobility required to further their scientific careers.
Nüsslein-Volhard is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and the Royal Society in the UK. She was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1991 and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. Nüsslein-Volhard will present her Lifetime Achievement Award Lecture at the SDB 78th Annual Meeting held in Boston, Massachusetts July 26-30, 2019.