A podcast about the life sciences and science policy produced by EMBO.
“We should know more, this is our main job.”
14 November 2022 – EMBO Member Roberto di Lauro was a group leader at the EMBL, a professor at the University of Naples Federico II, served as President of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, and as the scientific attaché to the Italian Embassy in London. Di Lauro is currently retired from research, but he still works on science evaluation as a member of Italy's National Committee for Research Evaluation. We talked about molecular biology, the challenges of evaluating and funding different types of research, and the occasional uses of having a minister’s cell phone number.
Lessons of epidemics past and present
26 September 2022 - “In 1977, the world witnessed both the eradication of smallpox and the beginning of the modern age of genomics”. That’s the starting point for a recently published EMBO Reports review by Nash Rochman, Yuri Wolf, and Eugene Koonin. The paper, entitled “Molecular adaptations during viral epidemics”, asks what we have learned from the seven major epidemics that have emerged in the half-century in which we’ve had the molecular genetic and genomic tools to analyze the pathogens responsible for them. Co-authors Eugene Koonin and Nash Rochman discuss some of the lessons learned (and open questions) on this episode of the EMBO podcast. We also talked about virology, pandemics, and Rochman et al’s paper with veteran virologist Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University.
Fuse or die: A conversation with Orian Shirihai
11 July 2022 - “We binned the data, which is one of my favorite things to do,” said cell biologist Orian Shirihai, describing how careful observation and analysis transformed an inquiry into the regulation of insulin secretion into a groundbreaking description of the mitochondrial life cycle. The resulting portrait of what Shirihai refers to as “the social life of mitochondria within the cell” was published in The EMBO Journal in 2008. The paper, “Fission and selective fusion govern mitochondrial segregation and elimination by autophagy”, has since received almost three thousand citations and is included in the journal’s 40th anniversary collection. Konstanze Winklhofer discusses the paper’s enduring impact and the role of mitochondrial quality control in her field of neurodegenerative diseases.
Proteomics and personalised medicine
6 May 2022 - The amazing advances in gene sequencing technology over the last two decades have not yet sparked the revolution in personalized cancer treatment that many had hoped for. Although there have been significant advances, actionable mutations, those that can be targeted to improve patient survival or quality of life, remain rare. But there is also the option to leapfrog genomics entirely, or to complement it, by using proteomic approaches. You may be surprised to learn that, as the guests on this episode of our podcast, Ursula Klingmüller and Matthias Mann told us, clinical proteomics is already being explored to design personalized cancer treatment strategies. Klingmüller and Mann discussed the technological (read the Mann lab’s recent Molecular Systems Biology paper on single cell proteomics here), scientific, and clinical challenges of the field with Molecular Systems Biology Senior Scientific Editor Maria Polychronidou.
“I learned early on that you can do a lot with a small amount of money”
21 March 2022 - Fiona Watt has been recently appointed EMBO Director, taking over from Maria Leptin, who was inaugurated as the new president of the European Research Council in the fall of 2021. Fiona and Maria sat down to discuss science funding, what scientists get wrong about interacting with policymakers, the importance of failure, and much more. The conversation took place in Heidelberg, not long after the start of the war in Ukraine, and we also talked about EMBO’s Solidarity List for displaced researchers.
From cell death to cancer immunotherapy
3 March 2022 - In the November 1992 issue of The EMBO Journal, Tasuku Honjo and colleagues reported the discovery of a new gene, which they named programmed death 1 (PD-1). Thirty years later, monoclonal antibodies against PD-1 were being used in the clinic to treat cancer patients, and in 2018 Tasuku Honjo shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with James Allison. “The paper has been transformational. I don’t think that they would ever have predicted that looking into genes that were differentially expressed that they would get such an important molecule that would be transformative for cancer immunotherapy,” said EMBO Journal Chief Editor Facundo Batista. In this episode of the EMBO podcast, Tasuku Honjo spoke about his journey from medical school to basic research, the importance of academic journals, and the many surprising turns in the PD-1 story. We also talked to Pierre Golstein, whose group cloned CTLA-4.