On 4 and 5 February 2019 the Crick hosted its first Developmental Biology Symposium.
The symposium honoured the memory of Rosa Beddington FRS (1956-2001), a leading UK embryologist who was head of the Division of Mammalian Development at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research from 1993-2001. Covering themes from embryonic growth to metabolism and aging, the symposium attracted more than 200 delegates from across the globe.
The symposium harnessed an impressive richness in diversity of topics and captured the raw excitement within the developmental biology field – a fitting tribute to Rosa, who was an outstanding embryologist, artist and mentor to many in the field. With a strong focus on unpublished work, it highlighted that collaborative efforts across disciplines are accelerating fundamental insights into biological systems.
The use of new interdisciplinary approaches was a recurring theme throughout the meeting. Sessions were “open plan”, drawing interesting parallels with the Crick’s research ethos, where different disciplines intermingle as an important driver for creativity and discovery. Advances in sequencing technologies are now providing unprecedented molecular resolution of how stem cells develop into the myriad of functional cell types within the body. Computer modelling techniques are providing striking predictions of how biological systems work and are helping to bridge the gap from single cells to whole tissues and organisms.
Researchers are broadening our understanding of animal development and its relevance to health and disease using a veritable feast of model organisms (sea urchins, worms, crickets and killifish to name but a few). And we are now beginning to develop an understanding of the complex processes that define our lifespan and, perhaps more importantly, our healthspan.