The Rockefeller University announced today that its Board of Trustees has elected Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a leader in the study of brain development who is currently executive vice president for research and chief scientific officer at Genentech, as its tenth president. He will succeed Paul Nurse, who is leaving Rockefeller on March 1, 2011 to become president of the Royal Society in London.
As head of the Genentech Research organization, Tessier-Lavigne, 50, directs some 1,400 people in disease research and drug discovery in cancer, immune disorders, infectious diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. He is also a member of Genentech’s Extended Executive Committee and its Early Stage Portfolio Committee, which oversees all experimental medicines from the early development stage to the end of phase II proof-of-concept studies in humans. In addition to his research management responsibilities, Tessier-Lavigne has maintained an active basic research laboratory focused on the mechanisms of brain development and repair.
“We were all impressed with Marc’s world class scientific achievements and reputation, his vision for the university and for science as a whole, his interpersonal skills and his executive management ability,” says Rockefeller University Chairman of the Board Russell L. Carson. “He was the search committee’s unanimous first choice and we are confident he will be an outstanding president.”
Tessier-Lavigne was born in Trenton, Canada, and received a B.Sc. in physics from McGill University, and a B.A. in philosophy and physiology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He obtained his Ph.D. in physiology from University College London, and performed postdoctoral work at the MRC Developmental Neurobiology Unit in London and at Columbia University. From 1991 to 2001 he was on the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco, and from 2001 to 2003 he served as the Susan B. Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. He was also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1994 to 2003. He moved to Genentech to become senior vice president, research drug discovery, in 2003, and was promoted to his current position in 2009.
Tessier-Lavigne and his colleagues have identified mechanisms important for understanding how the human brain forms during normal development. He pioneered the identification of the molecules that direct the formation of connections among nerve cells to establish neuronal circuits in the mammalian brain and spinal cord. This work has implications for neurological disorders that arise from miswiring of connections, and for repair and rewiring of connections following spinal cord injury and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
“I am looking forward with great enthusiasm to joining Rockefeller University, a unique institution with an unparalleled record of achievement in biomedical research, and to working with its remarkable community of scientists, research fellows and graduate students,” says Tessier-Lavigne. “I have immensely enjoyed my seven years at Genentech and am proud of the work my outstanding colleagues and I have done. While it was a difficult decision to leave the company, I am honored and excited to lead one of the world’s premier academic scientific institutions and to help carry on its tradition of groundbreaking contributions to biology and medicine.”
Tessier-Lavigne serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science magazine. He also serves on the scientific advisory boards of a number of research organizations and is a member of the jury of the Lasker Medical Research Awards.
Tessier-Lavigne is the recipient or co-recipient of numerous scientific awards, including the Young Investigator Award of the Society for Neuroscience (USA), the Charles Judson Herrick Award of the American Association of Anatomists, the Ameritec Prize for contributions towards a cure for paralysis, the Fondation IPSEN Prize in Neuronal Plasticity, the Viktor Hamburger Award of the International Society for Developmental Neuroscience, the Wakeman Award for distinction in Neuroscience research, the Robert Dow Neuroscience Award, an honorary doctorate from the University of Pavia, the Reeve-Irvine Research Medal, the Gill Distinguished Award in Neuroscience and the W. Alden Spencer Award.
He has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), a fellow of the Royal Society (UK), a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK). In 1999, he was named a Canadian “Leader for the 21st Century” by Time magazine Canada.