Dr. Edith Heard studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, graduating in genetics, and then carried out her PhD at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (London), working on gene amplification in cancer. She carried out her post doc at the Pasteur Institute and joined the CNRS. In 2001, she established her lab at the Institut Curie and became director of the Unit of Genetics and Developmental Biology Department in 2010. In 2012 she became Professor of the Collège de France. In January 2019, she became Director General for the EMBL and her lab is now located in Heidelberg. Under her direction, EMBL has initiated a new Program to study the molecular basis of life in context, called “Molecules to Ecosystems”.
Prof. Heard’s main areas of research include genetics, epigenetics, and developmental biology, focusing on X-chromosome inactivation, which occurs when one of the two copies of the X chromosomes in female mammals is inactivated. Her work on this process started in the 1990’s during her post-doc and she continued to explore the control of the initiation of X inactivation, as well as the developmental dynamics and evolutionary conservation of this process. Her lab has identified some of the key epigenetic factors that mediate this process as well as uncovering some of the principles underlying chromosome folding and dynamics.