The Power of Genetics – from Flies to Humans

Wednesday, 14. September 2011 | 11:00 Uhr


Ernst Hafen


ETH Zurich


Professor Ernst Hafen, ETH Zurich, underlined his conviction that personalized medicine will offer numerous possibilities in health care and that it is important to talk about it today. Every one of us has adopted the genome of his or her ancestors. We know today that deficient biological processes such as cancer and diabetes have been established 600 million years ago when the ancestors of our flies and worms lived. Minimal variations in the genome can be responsible for health problems. The challenge will be to find and understand small defects. It will be crucial to investigate how such variations of the genotype can influence the phenotype. Research with flies and worms has shown that the Insulin-receptor gene can substantially influence life expectancy. Such insights may also be applied for human beings. However, in this case, a larger data sample will be necessary to make meaningful comparisons. Decreasing costs for DNA analysis make participatory research possible.

Ernst Hafen

Ernst Hafen received his PhD from the Biozentrum at the University of Basel in the year 1983. After being a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California in Berkeley from 1984 until 1986, he joined the Zoological Institute of the University of Zurich as an assistant professor in 1987.

After becoming associate (1994) and full professor (1997) he served as the director of the Zoological Institute from 2004 to 2005. In 2005, he accepted a professorship at the Institute of Molecular System Biology at the Faculty of Biology at ETH Zurich.

Ernst Hafen made several contributions in the filed of developmental biology and cell biology. He received various awards and served on the editorial boards of several journals and scientific committees. He is a co-founder of The Genetics Company, a private owned biotech company in Zurich-Schlieren.

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