Marc Tessier-Lavigne on CSHL: Developmental Neurobiology Course
  Marc Tessier-Lavigne     Biography    
Recorded: 11 Sep 2008

Well, after my PhD I actually did a short postdoc in London as well. I stayed for about nine months and worked with Anne Mudge who was in Martin Raff’s unit there. During the course of my , and this is actually is very relevant to Cold Spring Harbor, I took one of your courses, the neural development course which at the time was taught by Paul Patterson and Dave Purvis, Dale Purvis, excuse me. And at that course it really reinforced a feeling that I had during my as I was doing on the one hand cell biology and on the other information processing. I was more and more drawn, more and more fascinated by the wiring of the nervous system the specificity of the connections and wondering how it is that the nervous system could be assembled with such precision during embryonic development.

At the Cold Spring Harbor Course I was exposed to the cutting edge of what was known about nervous system development. Pretty much then and there I’d decided that I wanted to become a developmental neurobiologist and I still had to finish my but I started planning. I was fortunate to be able to go and work with Tom Jessell in New York. But there was a short gap between my and when I could start in New York. So I was even more fortunate to be able to spend time in Martin Raff’s group which as you know had been a pioneer in the application of molecular mechanism, molecular methodologies to studying nervous system development.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a pioneer in developmental neurobiology, is currently president of The Rockefeller University in New York, where he heads the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair, and oversees 70 independent laboratories that operate within the university. He is the first industry executive to serve as president of Rockefeller. He joined Genentech, Inc. in 2003 as Senior Vice President, Research Drug Discovery, and was promoted to Executive Vice President, Research Drug Discovery in June, 2008. In that capacity, he was responsible for research management of all therapeutic areas of research, including a team of 1,400 researchers and his own research lab. His research at Genentech on the development of the brain uncovered details of how Alzheimer's disease is triggered.

Born in Canada in 1959, he was also raised in Belgium and the UK, and has lived in the US since 1990. Marc completed an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from McGill University (B.Sc., 1980), and a second undergraduate degree in philosophy and physiology from Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar, B.A., 1982). Prior to earning his Ph.D. at University College London (1986) in neurophysiology, Marc became the national coordinator of the Canadian Student Pugwash Organization, which promotes awareness and action relating to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and other ethical implications of science and technology policy. During his postdoctoral work at UCL and Columbia University, Marc’s research focus became developmental neurobiology. From 1991 to 2001 he was on the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco.

From 1994 to 2003 he was also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His famous discovery of the netrins (a class of proteins involved in axon guidance) occurred in 1994 while he was at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2000 he co-founded the biopharmaceutical company Renovis. From 2001-2003 he was the Susan B. Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and professor of Biological Sciences and a professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University.

Among the many awards Marc has received for his work in neuroscience are the McKnight Investigator Award (1994), the Ameritec Prize (1995), the Foundation IPSEN Prize for Neuronal Plasticity (shared, 1996), the Viktor Hamburger Award, International Society for Developmental Neuroscience (1997), the Wakeman Award for spinal cord injury research (shared, 1998), the Robert Dow Neuroscience Award (2003), and the Reeve-Irvine Research Medal (shared, 2006). Tessier-Lavigne has been elected a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences in the United Kingdom.