The Identity and Evolution of Cell Types – Course and Conference Office

EMBO | EMBL Symposium

The Identity and Evolution of Cell Types


EMBL is committed to sharing research advances and sustaining scientific interaction throughout the coronavirus pandemic. We are delighted to announce that this conference is going virtual and invite you to join us online.

Symposium Overview

Cell types are the fundamental units of multicellular life, which have diversified during animal evolution. Single-cell genomics/transcriptomics technologies and new insights into the molecular mechanisms specifying cell type identity allow us to explore this process in unprecedented detail. Our second EMBO | EMBL Symposium on the identity and evolution of cell types will re-assemble the growing community of scientists pushing forward the limits of this exciting new field. Based on the very positive feedback on the first symposium, we will keep session topics such as the cell type tree of life, and genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of cell type differentiation in development. We have also identified exciting new areas in our rapidly growing field – such as molecular mechanisms of cell type origination in evolution; the evolutionary assembly of cellular modules; different aspects of neuronal identity; and sensory cell type diversification in vertebrates. For this meeting, we will also provide extended discussion time within and between sessions and organise a final discussion.

Session Topics

  • Molecular mechanisms of cell type origination in evolution
  • Molecular and systems biological mechanisms of cell type differentiation in development
  • Cell type tree of life
  • The evolutionary assembly of cellular modules
  • Neuronal identity: from genes to morphology and connectivity
  • Sensory cell type diversification in vertebrates


Keynote Speaker


David Keays

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria

Ed Lein

Allen Institute for Brain Science, USA

Todd Oakley

University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Scientific Organisers

Conference Organisers


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  • The virtual conference includes live-streamed invited speakers and short talk presenters with Q&A sessions after each talk.
  • Information on the live stream and access to the discussion platform and digital posters will be provided shortly before the start of the event.
  • Access to the recorded talks will be available for 2 weeks after the end of the event.

The following time is used in the programme below:

  • Central European Summer Time (CEST): eg. Berlin, Amsterdam Paris

To find out the equivalent time zone in your location, enter Berlin, the CEST programme time and your city into the Time Zone Converter.

Day 1 – Tuesday, 4 May 2021
Time (CEST)Speaker
Virtual Session 1: Molecular mechanisms of cell type origination in evolution – Session chair: Günter Wagner
15:00-15:15Opening remarks by scientific organisers
15:15-15:45 The evolutionary origins of multicellularity and the role of ductile proteins (IDPs)
Inmaculada Yruela – Estación Experimental Aula Dei – CSIC, Spain
15:45-16:00Deep conservation of developmental enhancers and gene regulatory landscape
Emily Wong – Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Australia
16:00-16:30Co-option of stress responses during the early evolution of specialized cell types
Aurora Nedelcu  – University of New Brunswick, Canada
16:30-16:45Short break
16:45-17:15Stress, Novelty, Innovation, and Three Epochs of Eye Evolution
Todd Oakley – University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
17:15-17:30The evolution of the cell type specificity mechanism: the case of the uterine decidual cell
Daniel Stadtmauer – Yale University, USA
17:30-18:00Meet the speakers
18:00-19:00Digital poster session 1
19:00-20:00Developmental Architecture of the Drosophila Central Complex: From Lineage to Cell Type and Circuit
Volker Hartenstein – University of California, Los Angeles, USA
20:00-20:30Meet the keynote speaker
20:30-21:15Optional: Virtual speed networking
Day 2 – Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Time (CEST)Speaker
Virtual Session 2: Molecular and systems biological mechanisms of cell type differentiation in development – Session chair: Brigitte Galliot
15:00-15:30Development and evolution of neuron and muscle subtypes in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis
Ulrich Technau – University of Vienna, Austria
15:30-15:45Dynamic ribosomal RNA modification patterns control cell fate decisions during early development
Sofia Julia Häfner – University of Copenhagen, Denmark
15:45-16:15Autophagy in epithelial stem cells, an ancestral character supporting regeneration and slow aging?
Brigitte Galliot – University of Geneva, Switzerland
16:15-16:30Short break
16:30-17:00Decoding gene regulation in the fly brain
Stein Aerts – KU Leuven, Belgium
17:00-17:15Germline and neuronal cell types develop from a common multipotent cell population in adult Nematostella vectensis
Patrick Steinmetz – University of Bergen, Norway
17:15-17:45Modular developmental construction of T-lymphocyte identity
Ellen Rothenberg – Caltech, USA
17:45-18:15Meet the speakers
18:15-18:30Short break
Virtual Session 3: Sensory cell-type diversification in vertebratesSession chair: Clare Baker
18:30-19:00Are hair cells magnetoreceptors?
David Keays – Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria
19:00-19:15Investigating the specification of hair cells versus electroreceptors in the lateral line using CRISPR/Cas9 in a sturgeon
Martin Minarik – University of Cambridge, UK
19:15-19:45Early diversification of subtypes of sensory hair cells
Teresa Nicolson – Stanford University, USA
19:30-19:45Short break
20:00-20:30Development and maintenance of Merkel cell-neurite complexes, a vertebrate specialization that encodes sustained touch
Ellen Lumpkin – University of California, Berkeley, USA
20:30-20:45Evolution of retinal cell types in the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus, a basal-branching vertebrate
Phil Oel – EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
20:45-21:15Meet the speakers
21:15-22:00Optional: Virtual Bar mixer
Day 3 – Thursday, 6 May 2021
Time (CEST)Speaker
Virtual Session 4: The evolutionary assembly of cellular modulesSession chair: Jacob Musser
15:00-15:30Talk title to be announced
Sarah Teichmann – Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK
15:30-15:45Neuropeptide repertoire reveals the molecular identity of ctenophore neurons
Maria Sachkova – University of Bergen, Norway
15:45-16:15Cell type diversification in teleosts
Alex Schier – University of Basel, Switzerland
16:15-16:30Short break
16:30-17:00scRNAseq in sea urchins reveals the blueprint of major cell types and nervous system of a non-chordate deuterostome
Maria Ina Arnone – Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy
17:00-17:15Tabula floris – panoramic view of the cell types of the flower
Luke Nikolov – University of California, Los Angeles, USA
17:15-17:45Meet the speakers
17:45-18:00Short break
18:00-19:00Digital poster session 2
Virtual Session 5: Neuronal identity: from genes to morphology and connectivity – Session chair: Maria Antonietta Tosches
19:00-19:30Evolution of cortical cell types
Ed Lein – Allen Institute for Brain Science, USA
19:30-19:45Cellular homologies of birdsong control circuits
Bradley Colquitt – University of California, San Francisco, USA
19:45-20:15The evolutionary origins of cortical cell types
Maria Antonietta Tosches – Columbia University, USA
20:15-20:30Short break
20:30-21:00Retinal cell fate determination
Constance Cepko – Harvard Medical School, USA
21:00-21:15Evolution of cell types in the hyperexpanded mushroom body of ants
Bogdan Sieriebriennikov – NYU Grossman School of Medicine, USA
21:15-21:45Homeobox genes and neuronal circuitry in C.elegans
Oliver Hobert – Columbia University, USA
21:45-22:15Meet the speakers
Day 4 – Friday, 7 May 2021
Time (CEST)Speaker
Virtual Session 6: Cell type tree of life – Session chair: Detlev Arendt
15:00-15:30Early metazoan cell type diversity and regulation
Arnau Sebé-Pedrós – Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Spain
15:30-15:45Cerebellar nuclei evolved by repeatedly duplicating a conserved cell-type set
Justus Kebschull – Johns Hopkins University, USA
15:45-16:15Identity and fate choice mechanisms in the neural crest cells
Igor Adameyko – Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
16:15-16:30Short break
16:30-17:00Roles of miRNAs in cell diversification
Luisa Cochella – Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria
17:00-17:15Comparison of haematopoietic cell identity across vertebrates using single cell transcriptomes
Carolyn De Graaf – The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia
17:15-17:45Single-cell atlas mapping throughout metazoa reveals patterns in cell type evolution
Bo Wang – Stanford University, USA
17:45-18:00Short break
18:00-18:30Panel discussion: Trends in Cell Type Evolution
Panelists: Detlev Arendt, Clare Baker, Volker Hartenstein, Maria Antonietta Tosches, Günter Wagner
18:30-18:45Closing remarks, digital poster prize announcement
18:45-19:15Meet the speakers

Practical information

Registration Fees and Abstract Submission

Registration Fees:

Academia190 Euro
PhD Student140 Euro
Industry240 Euro
EMBL StaffIntranet access

Accredited journalists may be eligible to register for a reduced press rate or in some cases for complimentary registration. Registrants may be required to provide accreditation or equivalent proof of press membership after registration. Please contact Lea Hohmann for more information.

Confirmation and Payment

Registration will be on a first-come first-served basis. Your place can only be confirmed after payment of the registration fee.
Types of payments accepted are international bank transfers (only up to 8 weeks before event) and credit card payments.

Abstract submission

Only registered participants are eligible to submit an abstract. We only accept online abstract submissions. 

After registration you can submit your abstract via a separate link that will be provided in the email confirmation. Alternatively, you can access the link on the confirmation page directly after registering. The same login credentials are used for both processes.

Please note:

Title: The title should not exceed 20 words. Only the first word of the title should start with a capital letter and the rest of the title should be in lowercase.

Authors and Affiliations: Please fill in the author’s details as requested in the online form. The compulsory details are: First Name, Last Name, Organisation Name (Affiliation or Company), Country and Email. Mark only one author as the role of First author and please don’t forget to indicate who will be presenting. The order of the authors will be listed as follows: First Author, Co-First Author (alphabetically if multiple), co-author(s) (in the order added by the submitter).

Presentation Types: When submitting your abstract, you can apply for an oral or poster presentation. A selection process will take place with the results announced 2-3 weeks after the abstract submission deadline.

Please check our FAQs pages for further information on how to submit an abstract.

Financial Assistance

Financial Assistance

Registration Fee Waivers

All academic and student registrants are invited to apply for a registration fee waiver, provided by the EMBL Advanced Training Centre Corporate Partnership Programme and EMBO. The registration fee waiver covers the registration sum that you have paid to attend the meeting. Conference participants are not required to pre-pay the registration fee to be selected for a fee waiver for a virtual meeting. If you have already paid the registration fee and are awarded a fee waiver, it will be reimbursed after the meeting. Course participants are required to pay the course fee in advance, which will then be reimbursed after the recipient has attended the course.

Childcare Grants

For participants and speakers with childcare responsibilities there is the possibility to apply for a grant, provided by the EMBL Advanced Training Centre Corporate Partnership Programme and EMBO, to offset childcare costs incurred when participating at a virtual event. Eligible costs include fees for a babysitter or childcare facility or travel costs for a care giver. Please note that priority will be given to early stage researchers. Costs will be reimbursed after the meeting only once a reimbursement form and original receipts have been received. In order to apply for this grant, you must be registered by the abstract submission deadline.


Applications for financial assistance can be submitted via the submission portal* (for the submission of abstracts for conferences or the submission of motivation letters for courses) by completing the Financial Assistance Application Section (underneath the section for entering abstract/motivation letter information). The link to the portal can be found in the registration confirmation email that you will receive after registering for the conference or course.

For conferences, if you are not submitting an abstract, you can still apply for financial assistance in the submission portal by following the instructions here. Note that priority will be given to those submitting an abstract to present at the conference. In your application you will be asked to answer questions regarding your motivation for applying, and, for registration fee waivers, the reasons why your lab cannot fund your attendance and how your attendance will make a difference to your career. Application for financial support will not affect the outcome of your registration application.

*For some events, applications for Childcare Grants will still be done by email. Information about the grant will be sent out shortly after the abstract/motivation letter deadline. Please contact the event Conference Officer if you have any questions.


The scientific organisers will select the recipients of registration fee waivers during the abstract selection process for conferences and the participant selection process for courses. Results will be announced approximately 3 – 4 weeks before the event start date. Selection results do not impact your admission to the meeting. Registration fee waiver selection is based on your current work or study location, your motivation for applying, the reasons for needing financial support and the impact this event will have on your career. Childcare grants are allocated based on career stage, with priority given to early stage researchers.

Further details

A list of external funding opportunities can be found here, and information on attending a conference as an event reporter here.

For further information about financial assistance please refer to the FAQ page.

Virtual Participation Guidelines


Please do:

  • Use the event-specific hashtag #EESCellTypes as communicated during the event for any related tweets
  • Tweet unless the speaker specifically says otherwise
  • Be mindful of unpublished data
  • Be respectful in tone and content

Please don’t:

  • Share your login details with others
  • Broadcast the conference to unregistered participants
  • Capture, transmit, or redistribute data presented at the meeting unless the presenter gives explicit consent
  • Use offensive language in your posts
  • Engage in rudeness or personal attacks

Additional information can be found in our Code of Conduct.

Health and well-being

It is important to stay healthy and move around, especially when you are attending an event virtually. We have put together a few coffee break stretches and yoga videos. You can find these under ‘resources’ on the conference platform.

How to ask questions

Please use the Q&A function. It is possible to send a direct message to participants, poster presenters, and speakers within the conference platform.

If you have any other questions, you can go to the Help Desk on the conference platform. Click on ‘more’ on the top menu and click Help Desk. 

Time zone

The programme is planned based on Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST) unless otherwise stated. As many virtual participants are attending from around the world, we do our best to accommodate as many timezones as possible when creating the programme. Please take your time zone into consideration when planning your attendance. Remember to set your time zone in your account. 

Virtual event platforms

We are using a virtual event platform for this conference. More information about the platform will be shared ahead of the conference.


Media partners:

Development, a The Company of Biologists journal

Journal of Cell Science, a The Company of Biologists journal

Molecular Systems Biology, an EMBO Press journal

Open Biology, a Royal Society journal

Sponsorship Opportunities

We offer a variety of event sponsoring possibilities, with the flexibility to select a set sponsorship package or combine individual sponsorship options to suit your event budget. Discounts are available for companies sponsoring multiple events at EMBL Heidelberg. View other conferences, or contact sponsorship@embl.de for further information.

If you are interested in becoming a media partner of this event, please visit our media partnerships webpage.

Date: 4 - 7 May 2021

Location: Virtual


Abstract submission: Closed

Registration: Closed

Contact: Aline Schnieder

Download event poster

EMBL Courses and Conferences are kindly supported by our Corporate Partnership Programme

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