Alumni Relations

Connecting, engaging and nurturing EMBLs global community of current and former scientists, technicians, communicators and administrators

Kafatos Lectures


Register for the 2024 Kafatos Lecture by Hans Clevers

Watch the 2023 Kafatos Lecture by Elena Conti
“Should it stay or should it go: How cells control the life and death of mRNA molecules”

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

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 will 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:

2023, 2024

  • Bodossaki Foundation


  • 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 10 July 2023. 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 Tom Furnival-Adams.

Selection committee

Current Selection Committee

Iain Mattaj (joined in 2021), Chair, Former Director Human Technopole, Milan, and former EMBL Director General, EMBL,

Dame Janet Thornton (joined in 2021), Vice Chair, Director Emeritus, EMBL-EBI

Anne Ephrussi (joined in 2021), Former Director EMBL International Centre for Advanced Training (EICAT), and former Head EMBL Developmental Biology Unit

Eileen Furlong (joined in 2024), Head of Genome Biology Unit, EMBL

Roberto Di Lauro (joined in 2021), Professor Emeritus, University of Naples Federico II

Denis Duboule (joined in 2024), Professor, Collège de France, Paris, and EPFL, Lausanne


Former Selection Committee members

Babis Savakis (Served 2021-2023), Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Medical School, University of Crete

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 €15,000 as follows:

  • Honorarium for the speaker (€2,500)
  • Travel and accommodation, where relevant, for the speaker and a presenter
  • Venue hire and catering
  • Design, publicity and marketing material 
  • Audiovisual costs: filming, live streaming and dedicated online channel
  • Simultaneous translations, where necessary
  • 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.



If you would like to nominate or find out more about the Kafatos Lectures, please contact Head of Alumni Relations  Mehrnoosh Rayner.

List of recipients

2023 recipient: Elena Conti

EMBL: Group Leader, EMBL Heidelberg, 1999-2007
2023: Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

“Where do I start? Thank you to Patrick Cramer, our president at the Max Planck Society, for his kind words of introduction. Thank you, Princess Auguste of Bavaria, who’s a colleague at the Max Planck Institute of Biological Intelligence. Thank you to Michael Apel for allowing us to host this event in this beautiful venue, and thank you to the donors for their generous support of this lecture. Thank you also to the EMBL Alumni Association, to Iain Mattaj, and to Matthias Hentze for the honour to give this lecture in memory and celebration of Fotis Kafatos. And thanks to the friends and colleagues from my lab and members of the public for their participation.”

Lecture preview

Interview with Elena October 2023

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 the Lecture

Thank you to the individual donors and institutions who have generously supported the Kafatos Lectures: