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For Immediate Release: August 3, 2009
Contact: Gina Hebert, 508-289-7725; ghebert@mbl.edu

Elegant Gene Networks that Control Early Development to be Explored at MBL Friday Evening Lecture, August 7

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—Dr. Eric H. Davidson, an expert on genetic control of early embryonic development, will present the next Friday Evening Lecture on August 7 at 8:00 PM in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole. The lecture, titled "Gene Regulatory Networks: the Genomic Code for Embryonic Development," is free and open to the public.

We all know intuitively that since each type of creature on Earth gives rise to an adult of the same species, the process of embryonic development must be a genetic property of the species. In a few cases, scientists have discovered the actual genomic code that controls embryogenesis. Dr. Davidson’s lecture will be about the best understood example of this: the sea urchin embryo. He will explain how the genomic program for development of the sea urchin embryo has the form of a network of interacting genes, which acts as the “brain” for the whole process. The linkages that comprise this network are directed encoded in the sea urchin’s DNA, just as human development is directly encoded in the regulatory sequence of our DNA.

“The beauty and elegance of the logical transactions the network encodes, as genes are turned on and off in the developing embryo, is demanded by the beauty and elegance of the biological process we see in the microscope,” he says. Dr. Davidson will also discuss how these gene networks are responsible for evolutionary change.

Dr. Davidson is the Norman Chandler Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where he has been on the faculty since 1971. Dr. Davidson earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958 and Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in 1963, where he remained on the faculty until 1971. Dr. Davidson has served as a director of the MBL’s Embryology course for a total of 15 years. He is presently co-director of MBL’s new Gene Regulatory Networks course. Dr. Davidson has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1985.

The Friday Evening Lecture series will continue throughout the summer at the MBL. The remaining lectures in the series are below:

August 14: Martin Chalfie, Columbia University, 2008 Nobel Laureate
“Touching Green Worms”

August 21: Josh Sanes, Harvard University
“The Circuits That Let Us See”


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Americas.