Edith Heard, 2017 Inserm Grand Prize

An international epigenetics specialist, Edith Heard's major discoveries include a group of mechanisms involved in the regulation of X-chromosome inactivation and the role of nuclear organization in this process.

Edith Heard © Inserm/Delapierre, Patrick
Edith Heard © Inserm/Delapierre, Patrick

A Professor at the Collège de France, Edith Heard is Director of the Genetics and Developmental Biology* unit at the Institut Curie. She leads research into X-chromosome inactivation, its epigenetic regulation during the development phase and its deregulation in cancerous cells.

The defining point of Edith Heard's career came in 2012 when her team's collaboration with American researchers led to the discovery of an unexpected chromosome structure: the chromatin linking DNA and proteins is organized into topologically associating domains (TADs). TADs sort DNA into a kind of 'wool yarn' that forms several balls, each corresponding to a TAD. This 'ball effect' helps regulate gene expression and the process of X-chromosome inactivation.

Alongside her research and educational work, Edith Heard is currently developing PAUSE, a national program led by the Collège de France. The aim of the program is to develop border-free science by hosting exiled scientists as a matter of urgency where the political situation in their countries is preventing them from doing their job and putting their life, and those of their family, at risk.

In 2019, Edith Heard will become the Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a major development for this staunch Europhile.


*Inserm unit 934/CNRS/UMPC/Institut Curie