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Kafatos Lectures


2023 Lecture
Speaker: Elena Conti
Date: Friday 20 October 2023
Venue: Biotopia – Museum Mensch und Natur

2022 Lecture
Watch the 2022 Kafatos Lecture on
“Evolution and Embryonic Development: The Complex Story of our Dual Origins” by Denis Duboule

To nominate future speakers, please contact alumni@embl.org

Typically, the lecture will be delivered in the city where the selected lecturer resides, with the exception of the Inaugural 2022 Kafatos Lecture that will be held in Fotis’ birth town Heraklion, marking 5 years since Fotis’ death. Heraklion might also be the place for the lecture every fifth year.

About the lecture

The Kafatos Lecture series was launched in 2021 to honour the considerable legacy of Fotis Kafatos, former EMBL Director General and Founder and first President of the European Research Council (ERC). The series aims to bring groundbreaking and relevant life science research to the worldwide public, making it accessible and highlighting its day-to-day societal impact. The prestigious Lecture series is coordinated by the EMBL Alumni Association (founded by Fotis Kafatos) and each annual lecture is delivered by an outstanding scientist who is a past or current ERC grantee in the field of Life Sciences. Nominated speakers do not have to be a current or former member of EMBL staff. Academics are invited to nominate speakers fitting the above criteria and, once selected by the selection committee, the lecture is held in-person at a prestigious venue in the nominated speaker’s city and streamed live.

Thank you to the following for their support of the lecture:

  • The Bank of Greece
  • Crete University Press
  • Heraklion Municipality
  • IMBB
  • Mathesis
  • Individuals

How to nominate

Please complete and submit the nomination form together with additional comments for the nominated speaker by 11 July 2022. The selection committee selects a speaker based on excellence in public speaking and timeliness of subject matter. Nominees will then be contacted by the EMBL Alumni Relations Office regarding next steps.

Criteria for nominated speakers:

  • The nominated speaker must be a past or current ERC grantee in the field of Life Sciences. 
  • Nominated speakers do not have to be a current or former member of EMBL staff.
  • The speaker’s field of research should be timely and of interest to the public.

EMBL supports fair and responsible research assessment, which includes its alumni awards processes. We recognise a range of research outputs including publications, open data sets, databases, code, software, pre-prints, patents, commercial products, instruments, clinical practice developments, educational products, policy publications, and any other relevant outputs. We discourage inappropriate use of proxies such as journal impact factors, and value research outputs based on their intrinsic merit. EMBL is a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

How to submit:

All nominations should be sent to Fenia Fotiadou by 11 July 2022.

Selection committee


Iain Mattaj, FRS FRSE, Chair

  • Director, Human Technopole, Milan, Italy
  • EMBL Director General, 2005-2018
  • German Bundesverdienstkreuz recipient 2021

Dame Janet Thornton, DBE FRS FMEDSCI FRSC Vice Chair

  • Senior Scientist and Director Emeritus, EMBL-EBI
  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 2000
  • Joint Vice President of ERC, 2019-2020
  • EMBL-EBI Director, 2001-2015

Anne Ephrussi

  • Director of the EMBL International Centre for Advanced Training (EICAT)
  • EMBL Head of Developmental Biology Unit

Roberto Di Lauro

  • Professor Emeritus, University of Naples Federico II
  • Commendatore for merit of the Italian republic, 2007
  • EMBL Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) member, 2005-2011; including a period as Chair of SAC, 2010-2011
  • EMBL Group Leader, 1986-91

Babis Savakis

  • Vice Chair of the Scientific Council, Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation;
  • Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Medical School, University of Crete
  • Associate Researcher, Alexander Fleming Biomedical Research Centre, Athens
  • Senior Advisor to the President of ERC, 2006-2008
  • EMBL Council delegate, 2003-2016; including a period as Chair of Council, 2007-2009

Support the lecture

We would be hugely grateful for a commitment to the Kafatos Fund that would help establish the lecture series indefinitely.

For the Kafatos Lecture series, we are seeking a multi-year commitment that covers the annual cost of €10,000 as follows:

  • Honorarium for the speaker (€2,500)
  • Travel and accommodation, where relevant, for the speaker and a presenter
  • Venue hire and catering
  • Publicity, marketing material, campaigns 
  • Filming, necessary animations, live streaming and dedicated online channel
  • Simultaneous translations
  • Coaching to present to the general public, if relevant

To find out more, please email Mehrnoosh Rayner.

All donors will be recognised in the material on the event.

Proposal for interested donors is available here.



If you would like to nominate or find out more about the Kafatos Lectures, please contact Alumni Relations Officer Fenia Fotiadou.

List of recipients

2022 recipient: Denis Duboule

EMBL: Group Leader, EMBL Heidelberg, 1988-1993
2022: Professor at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Geneva, and the Collège de France

“I’m touched and very grateful to have been selected as the inaugural speaker. I knew Fotis – and his science – for more than 25 years. To be invited to deliver this lecture in his memory in Heraklion, where he invested so much time and effort to promote science, is simply awesome. It is a fantastic opportunity for me, and I can’t wait. Fotis was exceptionally devoted to helping young people. This was a priority he retained throughout his life, at Harvard, during his leadership of EMBL, and in the foundation of the ERC. He had an intrinsic need to promote the science of young people and to help young people throughout their careers.”

Announcement of winner: December 2021

Learn about and register for the Lecture