2023 Kafatos Lecture – Alumni relations

Public event

2023 Kafatos Lecture



Article: Deciding when to destroy mRNA
Article: Interview with Elena Conti

See Photo Gallery below

Princess Auguste of Bavaria, Michael Apel
Iain Mattaj
Patrick Cramer


Friday 20 Oct
18:00-18:05 CETWelcome
Michael Apel, Director Museum Mensch und Natur
Princess Auguste of Bavaria
18:05-18:10 CETAbout the Lecture
Iain Mattaj, Chair of the Kafatos Lecture Selection Committee and
former EMBL Director General
18:10-18:15 CETIntroducing Elena
Patrick Cramer, Max Planck Society President and
former EMBL predoctoral fellow and Chair of Council
18:15-18:45 CETLecture by Elena Conti
“Should it stay or should it go: How cells control the life and death of mRNA molecules”
18:45-19:20 CETQ&A with Elena Conti
Assisted by Agnes Szmolenszky, Head of Science Education and
Public Engagement (SEPE), EMBL
19:20-20:20 CETDrinks reception

Information for Participants

Venue: Museum Mensch und Natur

Schloss Nymphenburg
80638 München


Elena Conti

About Elena Conti

Elena Conti is a distinguished biochemist and structural biologist, and is recognised as a world-leading authority in the study of protein-RNA complexes. Over the past 25 years, her group has made major contributions to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying crucial eukaryotic RNA pathways, with a particular focus on RNA export, surveillance and degradation.

After studies in Italy, the UK and the US, in 1999 Conti was recruited to become a group leader at EMBL Heidelberg, by Fotis Kafatos, who was Director General at the time. Conti then moved to Munich in 2007 to serve as a Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and Honorary Professor at the Ludwig Maximilians University.

The impact of Conti’s research has been recognised by numerous accolades, including the Hans Neurath Prize (US) in 2023, the Gregori Aminoff Prize (SE) in 2022, the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (CH) in 2014 and the Leibniz Prize (DE) in 2008. In addition, she has been elected as a member of prestigious scientific societies such as EMBO, the Royal Society (UK) and the Accademia dei Lincei (IT).

She has been awarded three consecutive ERC Advanced grants, the prestigious grants awarded for innovatove, high-risk research projects that have been established under the leadership of Fotis Kafatos during his tenure as the founding President of the European Research Council.

Elena’s Lecture:

‘Should it stay or should it go: How cells control the life and death of mRNA molecules’

mRNAs serve crucial cellular roles as the messenger molecules that transfer genetic information to the protein-making machinery. mRNAs are transient molecules in our cells: they are synthesised, fulfil their function and are then eliminated.

To maintain a well-functioning and healthy state, our cells must carefully balance the protection of functional mRNA molecules and the degradation of unnecessary or defective ones. This process can be likened to the efficient management of a busy office, where useful documents are retained while unnecessary or potentially damaging information is disposed of.

Just as we have paper-shredding machines in offices for this purpose, cells possess molecular nanomachines that function to shred RNAs. Failure of these systems leads to the accumulation of unwanted molecules, with harmful consequences for the organism. How do the quality-control nanomachines in our cells recognise unneeded or defective mRNAs and degrade them? Conversely, what are the features of mature, correctly packaged mRNAs that enable them to evade degradation?

The talk will highlight the insights we obtained, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms that govern the life and death of mRNAs in our cells.

About the Kafatos Lectures

The Kafatos Lectures aim to bring groundbreaking and relevant life sciences research to the worldwide public, making it accessible and highlighting its day-to-day societal impact. Whether you’re a high school student, a world-class scientist or someone with a non-scientific background, this lecture is tailored for you. The only requirements are enthusiasm and curiosity.

Article on Elena’s Lecture: “Deciding when to destroy mRNA”

Find out more about the Kafatos Lectures

Thank you to the Bodossaki Foundation for their generous support of the 2023 Kafatos Lecture:

Thank you to the following 2023 Kafatos Lectures partners/co-organisers:

Date: 20 Oct 2023

Location: Hybrid

Time: 18:00

Venue: Museum Mensch und Natur, Schloss Nymphenburg, 80638 München


  • EMBL Alumni Relations

      • Co-organisers:
        • Naturkundemuseum Bayern / BIOTOPIA Lab

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