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M. Madan Babu and Paola Picotti honoured with EMBO Gold Medal


Heidelberg, 5 June 2019 – The EMBO Gold Medal 2019 has been awarded to two systems biologists, M. Madan Babu and Paola Picotti.


EMBO awards the Gold Medal annually to honour the exceptional achievements of selected life scientists under the age of 40 in Europe. It stands for recognition of research excellence and the importance of young independent group leaders in creating a strong research environment. Babu and Picotti will each receive a gold medal and a cash prize of 10,000 euros.


M. Madan Babu, who is based at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, receives the award for his fundamental contributions to the field of computational molecular biology, specifically for his discoveries in the areas of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signalling and intrinsically disordered proteins.


Babu began using computational methods to study biological questions during his PhD. His recent work on GPCRs explains why people respond differently to certain drugs, which has direct implications for personalized and precision medicine. Babu also discovered the roles of disordered proteins in biology and disease. The high-throughput screen he and his team developed underpins the importance of disordered regions and their functions.


EMBO Member Veronica van Heyningen, University College London, UK, says that Madan Babu “has an impressive ability to formulate critical questions clearly and then develop bioinformatics approaches to interrogate available genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data mountains, to develop major new insights into biological mechanisms.”


Paola Picotti from ETH Zurich in Switzerland is recognized for conceptual and technological breakthroughs in the mass spectrometric analysis of proteins and proteomes, specifically for enabling the analysis of protein conformational changes in situ and on a proteome-wide scale.


Picotti’s focus on mass spectrometry began during her PhD, and she contributed to develop targeted proteomics during her postdoctoral fellowship. Her group recently used structural proteomics strategies to characterize the determinants of proteome thermostability and to map protein–metabolite interactions.


EMBO Member Anne Bertolotti, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, says about Picotti: “Paola is recognized as a leader at multiple levels and across disciplines. The limited proteolysis method she developed already pushed the boundaries of our knowledge significantly. We can now examine conformational changes, which brings our abilities to understand protein functions in their complex cellular environment to an entirely new level.”


Madan Babu and Paola Picotti will receive their EMBO Gold Medals at the EMBO Members’ meeting in Heidelberg in October. They will also be invited to present their prize-winning research at an award ceremony at the ASCB | EMBO Meeting 2019 in Washington, USA, in December.


More information about both recipients and their research is available in two interviews at http://embo.org/news





M. Madan Babu


Following undergraduate studies in Biotechnology at Anna University, Chennai, India, M. Madan Babu completed a PhD in Computational Genomics at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK in 2004. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the NCBI, National Health Institutes, USA, he returned to the LMB as group leader in 2006. He heads the regulatory genomics and systems biology group, which investigates how regulation is achieved in cellular systems and how this influences evolution of organisms and their genome.


Babu is an EMBO Member and former EMBO Young Investigator. He has received numerous prizes, including the Blavatnik Award UK 2018, ISCB Innovator Award 2018, Royal Society Francis Crick Medal 2015, Lister Prize 2014, Biochemical Society Colworth Medal 2013 and the Genetics Society Balfour Award 2012.


Paola Picotti


Paola Picotti studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Padua in Italy, where she also completed her PhD in Biotechnology. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Udine, Italy and ETH Zurich, she became a group leader at the ETH Institute of Biochemistry. Picotti was promoted to Associate (Tenured) Professor for Molecular Systems Biology in 2017. Her group studies the molecular bases of protein aggregation diseases.


Picotti is an EMBO Young Investigator. She is also the recipient of the Juan Pablo Albar ‘Protein Pioneer’ Award 2018, the Friedrich Miescher Award 2018, the Robert J. Cotter Award 2016, the SGMS Award for independent research 2016 and the ETH Latsis Prize 2012.




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Tilmann KiesslingTilmann Kiessling
Head, Communications
T. + 49 160 9019 3839