Claude Desplan is a Silver Professor at New York Univerity's Department of Biology who has spent his scientific career analysing molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling cell fate decisions, as well as their evolution. He received his PhD at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Paris in 1983, before moving to the US to join Pat O’Farrell's lab at the University of California, San Francisco. After this Desplan joined the Faculty of Rockefeller University, where he became an HHMI Associate Investigator, and pursued structural studies of the homeodomain and the paired domain in Pax genes.
In 1999, Desplan accepted a position as Professor at New York University. His laboratory has demonstrated the molecular mechanisms that pattern the fly colour-sensing photoreceptor neurons and showed how stochastic decisions, a transcription factor network and a tumor suppressor pathway contribute to the diversification of photoreceptors. It has also sought to understand how colour information that arises within the retina is processed in the optic lobe of the Drosophila brain by investigating the development and function of this structure. The Desplan laboratory also uses ‘evo-devo’ approaches to understand the evolution of patterning mechanisms in the early embryo and in the visual system using the wasp Nasonia and the ant Harpegnathos as model systems. Desplan contributed broadly to the understanding of how insect embryos pattern their antero-posterior axis through extensive rewiring of a network of genes that are otherwise evolutionarily conserved in Drosophila
Desplan serves on multiple scientific advisory boards and in funding agencies. He is an elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an elected foreign member of EMBO, and an elected fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences.