Enrico Coen

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Rico Coen

Enrico Coen.jpg
Enrico Sandro Coen

(1957-09-29) 29 September 1957 (age 64)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (PhD)
Scientific career
FieldsPlant biology
ThesisThe dynamics of multigene family evolution in Drosophila (1982)
Doctoral advisorGabriel Dover[2][3]

Enrico Sandro Coen CBE FRS (born 29 September 1957) is a British biologist who studies the mechanisms used by plants to create complex and varied flower structures. Coen's research has aimed to define the developmental rules that govern flower and leaf growth at both the cellular level and throughout the whole plant to better understand evolution. He has combined molecular, genetic and imaging studies with population and ecological models and computational analysis to understand flower development.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Enrico Coen´s father was a physicist and his mother was a chemist. Coen developed an interest in biology at age 15 after reading a biochemistry book entitled "The Chemistry of Life". Drawn to abstract analysis, he was undecided whether to pursue chemistry or genetics, and ultimately decided for genetics because lectures began later and there was "coffee for exams".[3]

After graduation from King's College, Cambridge in 1979 Coen stayed at Cambridge to pursue his doctoral degree. In 1982, he earned a PhD for research on Drosophila supervised by geneticist Gabriel Dover on the evolution and function of genes needed to make ribosomal RNA in fruit fly lines, which were selected for the number of bristles on their abdomen.[2][5]


Coen decided to study the mechanism of supergenes, gene clusters acting together to affect both evolution and development. As one of the best-defined supergenes was in primroses, he wrote a proposal, and was accepted as a research fellow in the lab of plant biologist Dick Flavell at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge.

After a year (1983/4) he sought a different plant system to continue his research at John Innes Centre in Norwich which studied Antirrhinum, commonly known as snapdragon, and was hired together with colleague Cathie Martin to join the lab of Brian Harrison and Rosemary Carpenter.[3] Coen screened snapdragons for developmental mutants with sepals instead of petals and carpels instead of stamens, caused by transposon insertions. He eventually discovered that three classes of genes controlled whorl development in wild-type snapdragons: class A controlled sepal identity, class A and B petal identity, B and C stamen identity, and C alone carpel identity.[3] In collaboration with Elliot Meyerowitz of the California Institute of Technology he created computer simulations of how plant cells and their genes interact to direct flower formation and control colour.[6] In 1994 he published evidence of unity and logic of floral development across species on the molecular level as did the labs of Meyerowitz, of Zsuzsanna Schwarz-Sommer and Hans Sommer at Max Planck Institute in Cologne.

In the 1990s he collaborated with Przemysław Prusinkiewicz, a computer scientist knowledgeable in biological development at the University of Calgary and others computer modeling techniques to relate gene activity to patterns of growth and geometry.[3][7]


Coen has written several books, including Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life,[8] in which he postulates the seven ingredients which shape life: population variation, persistence, reinforcement, competition, co-operation, combinatorial richness and recurrence.[4][9][10][11]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ Anon (2015) "Coen, Prof. Enrico Sandro". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.11364 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Coen, Enrico S.; Thoday, John M.; Dover, Gabriel (1982). "Rate of turnover of structural variants in the rDNA gene family of Drosophila melanogaster". Nature. 295 (5850): 564–568. Bibcode:1982Natur.295..564C. doi:10.1038/295564a0. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 6799840. S2CID 4347190.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brownlee, C. (2004). "Biography of Enrico Coen". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101 (14): 4725–4727. Bibcode:2004PNAS..101.4725B. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401746101. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 387315. PMID 15051867.
  4. ^ a b c "Professor Enrico Coen CBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. biographical text reproduced here was originally published by the Royal Society a creative commons licence
  5. ^ Coen, Enrico Sandro (1982). The dynamics of multigene family evolution in Drosophila. lib.cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 499809938. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.348792.
  6. ^ Coen, Enrico S.; Meyerowitz, Elliot M. (1991). "The war of the whorls: genetic interactions controlling flower development". Nature. 353 (6339): 31–37. Bibcode:1991Natur.353...31C. doi:10.1038/353031a0. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 1715520. S2CID 4276098.
  7. ^ Coen, Enrico; Cubas, Pilar; Vincent, Coral (1999). "An epigenetic mutation responsible for natural variation in floral symmetry". Nature. 401 (6749): 157–161. Bibcode:1999Natur.401..157C. doi:10.1038/43657. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 10490023. S2CID 205033495.
  8. ^ Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life, 2012, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14967-7 http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9659.html
  9. ^ "Professor Enrico Coen". 23 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Coen and Bangham - Lab Members - Flower Development, e Coen , Cell & Developmental Biology Department - JIC UK".
  11. ^ Defining features: scientific and medical portraits, 1660–2000
  12. ^ The art of genes: how organisms make themselves. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-286208-2. Enrico Coen.
  13. ^ Life's Creative Recipe, Princeton University Press
  14. ^ "ENRICO COEN". Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Enrico Coen | F1000 Faculty Member | F1000Prime".[dead link]

External links[edit]

  • Coen Lab The John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK