Maria Leptin

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Professor Maria Leptin
Alma materUniversity of Bonn
University of Heidelberg
Basel Institute for Immunology
AwardsEMBO member
Scientific career
FieldsDevelopmental biology
Cell & Tissue Architecture
InstitutionsUniversity of Cologne
European Molecular Biology Organization
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
University of California, San Francisco
École Normale Supérieure
Doctoral advisorFritz Melchers[citation needed]

Professor Maria Leptin is a scientist working in developmental biology and immunology. She leads research groups at the Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne and at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. In 2010 she was appointed Director of the European Molecular Biology Organization.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


After completing her studies in mathematics and biology at the University of Bonn and the University of Heidelberg, Maria Leptin worked for her PhD at the Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland, (1979-1983) studying B-lymphocyte activation under the supervision of Fritz Melchers.


In 1984 she moved, as a post doctoral fellow (1984-1987), to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), Cambridge, UK, where she started her research on position-specific (PS) integrins involved in the embryonic development of Drosophila, joining the laboratory of Michael Wilcox. This work laid the foundations for her future work in the field of molecular morphogenesis.[7] In 1988, Maria Leptin was appointed as staff scientist at the same institution.

She then went to Pat O’Farrell's lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), as a visiting scientist. This was the occasion for her to begin studying gastrulation. After this experience Maria Leptin joined the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, where, between 1989 and 1994, she worked as group leader.

In 1994, Maria Leptin became Professor at the Institute of Genetics University of Cologne, Germany, where she still leads a research group.

Subsequently, she had two more experiences abroad as a visiting Professor at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France (2001) and as visiting scientist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK (2004-2005).

EMBO Director[edit]

In 2010 Professor Maria Leptin was appointed Director of the European Molecular Biology Organization,[1] Heidelberg. At the same time, she established a research group in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). The group studies the development of complex cell shapes in the respiratory system of Drosophila and the role of RNA localisation in generating cell shape.[8][9]

Maria Leptin was the first woman to be appointed Director of EMBO, succeeding the previous EMBO directors Raymond Appleyard, John Tooze, Frank Gannon and Hermann Bujard.[7] “I am thrilled to continue the initiatives begun by previous directors that promote the molecular life sciences in Europe and worldwide,” said Maria Leptin upon her acceptance as the next Director of EMBO. “EMBO plays a vital role in representing biological research – a role made possible through the organization’s extensive networks of respected leaders across the many fields of molecular biology.”[10]

Research Interests[edit]

Maria Leptin's interest in biology dates back to high school years where she was taught by a "fantastic teacher, a skinny little old lady, who was very original, and very enthusiastic."[11] Her degree in maths and biology was meant to lead her into teaching. Maria Leptin eventually decided to become a researcher while attending a practical at the University of Heidelberg, taught by scientists from the Basel Institute of Immunology.

After her PhD in immunology Maria Leptin moved to development biology as a post doc, but had the chance to get back to immunology later in her scientific career. Her two research groups are now working on both fields.[11]


  1. ^ a b Leptin, M. (2010). "Spreading the Spirit of EMBO". Science. 327 (5962): 126–126. Bibcode:2010Sci...327..126L. doi:10.1126/science.1185865. PMID 20056858.
  2. ^ Barrett, K.; Leptin, M.; Settleman, J. (1997). "The Rho GTPase and a Putative RhoGEF Mediate a Signaling Pathway for the Cell Shape Changes in Drosophila Gastrulation". Cell. 91 (7): 905–915. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80482-1. PMID 9428514.
  3. ^ Maria Leptin's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Leptin, M.; Bogaert, T.; Lehmann, R.; Wilcox, M. (1989). "The function of PS integrins during Drosophila embryogenesis". Cell. 56 (3): 401–408. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(89)90243-2. PMID 2492451.
  5. ^ Leptin, M. (2012). "Open Access--Pass the Buck" (PDF). Science. 335 (6074): 1279. doi:10.1126/science.1220395. PMID 22422945.
  6. ^ Kain, K. H. (2010). "Embracing new ideas: An interview with Maria Leptin". Disease Models & Mechanisms. 3 (3–4): 136–137. doi:10.1242/dmm.005454. PMID 20212080.
  7. ^ a b "Maria Leptin – the first woman scientist at the head of the renowned EMBO". Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  8. ^ Katja. "Maria Leptin".
  9. ^ "Leptin CV".
  10. ^ "Maria Leptin appointed next Director of EMBO". Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  11. ^ a b "An interview with Maria Leptin". Retrieved 26 November 2013.