Huanming Yang


Dr. Yang is the co-founder and Chairman of Board, BGI, one of the major genomics centers in the world. He and his partners have made a significant contribution to the International HGP, HapMap Project, 1000 Genomes Project, and other human omics research, as well as sequencing and analyzing genomes of many other animals, plants, and microorganisms, with many publications in Science, Nature, Cell and other internationally prestigious journals. Dr. Yang obtained his Ph.D. from University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and postdoctoral trainings in France and USA. He has received many awards and honors, including Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American in 2002 and Award in Biology by the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2006. He was elected as a foreign member of European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2006, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2007, a fellow of TWAS in 2008, a foreign academician of Indian National Science Academy in 2009, German National Academy of Science in 2012 and the USA National Academy of Science in 2014.


Xun Xu

BGI Research


Gregory Wray

Duke University

Prof. Gregory Wray studies the evolution of gene regulation. His group uses a combination of experimental and computational approaches to identify mutations that influence gene expression and to understand how these changes influence ecologically important traits. One focus of his current research is the evolution of life history mode in sea urchins, which involves a suite of functionally related changes in oogenesis, embryonic development, larval morphology, and dispersal. His group is using functional genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics to investigate the genetic and molecular changes among a group of closely related sea urchin species. These high-throughput assays highlight specific genes and molecular pathways that may be particularly important for the evolution of life history mode. We are currently testing these candidates using targeted perturbations of gene expression and signaling. They are also using interspecies hybrids to study the genetic basis for evolutionary changes in gene expression. His long-term goal is to reconstruct the history of genetic and molecular events that produced this major evolutionary change in sea urchins.


Daniel Distel

Northeastern University

Daniel L. Distel is the Professor and Director of Ocean Genome Legacy Center in Northeastern University. Education: B.S. Rutgers University. Ph.D. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. Biographical Sketch: Dr. Distel received his Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He performed postdoctoral research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Harvard University and as was an Assistant and Associate Professor at University of Maine, Orono. Presently, Dr. Distel is a Professor at Northeastern University and serves as the Director of the Ocean Genome Legacy, a research laboratory and genome resource bank located at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center in Nahant, MA, USA. His research interests include the biology, physiological ecology, and genomics of marine invertebrates and their associated symbiotic microorganisms.


Nori Satoh

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Okinawa

Professor of Marine Genomics Units at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Graduate University. Former Prof. at Department of Zoology, Kyoto University.


Haiwei Luo

Chinese University of Hong Kong

School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. EDUCATION: 2008-2010 Ph.D. in Molecular Evolution, University of South Carolina, USA 2006-2008 M.S. in Microbial Ecology, University of South Carolina, USA 2000-2004 B.S. in Environmental Science, Xiamen University, China RESEARCH INTERESTS: Marine microbial evolution, ecology, genomics and bioinformatics


Bernard Degnan

The University of Queensland

Professor Bernie Degnan is a marine biologist with broad interests in the genomic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin the formation, evolution and functioning of animals. His lab studies a wide range of marine invertebrates, some of which have traits of economic value and others that act as models to address fundamental questions in biology and biomedicine.


Manfred Schartl

University of Würzburg

Manfred Schartl is professor and chair of the Physiological Chemistry Institute of the Medical Faculty at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg. He received his PhD in Genetics from the University of Gießen. After postdoctoral research at the NIH in Bethesda and again at the University of Gießen, he was junior group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Martinsried / Munich. He became full professor in 1991 at the University of Würzburg. He received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Bergen in 2004 and Japan’s Prince Hitachi Prize for Comparative Oncology in 2007. He is member of the Leopoldina, the National Academy of Sciences of Germany. Since 2016 he is a Hagler Faculty Fellow at Texas A&M University, U.S.A. His research centres on explaining the molecular genetic basis of cancer formation and oncogenic signal transduction, using several fish models for basic and translational research. He is using comparative genomics to understand normal and pathological development, which connects to his second major research field, namely the evolutionary genomics and genetics of sex determination, where again fish are his main study objects.


Athula Wikramanayake

University of Miami

Professor Athula Wikramanayake received his Ph.D. at the University of California Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory where he studied the reproduction and development of marine shrimp. He is now a Professor and the Chairman of the Department of Biology at the University of Miami, Florida. The Wikramanayake lab uses echinoderms and the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis as comparative model systems to reconstruct the molecular mechanisms that led to the evolution of gastrulation, a process that was critical for the evolution of animals. In particular, the lab studies the role of the evolutionarily conserved Wnt signal transduction pathway in the evolution of gastrulation. Currently, the lab is using genomics and proteomics approaches in combination with experimental perturbations to identify and functionally characterize novel regulators of Wnt signaling in echinoderms and in Nematostella. The long-term goal is to use the insights gained from these studies to begin to reconstruct the molecular mechanisms that led to the evolution of gastrulation in animals.


Naveen Wijesena

Rajarata University of Sri Lanka

Dr. Naveen Wijesena has been trained as an experimental developmental biologist. Dr. Naveen Wijesena received a bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Miami, USA, working with Prof. Athula H. Wikramanayake, investigating the role of Wnt signaling on the evolution of embryonic polarity in metazoan embryos using the anthozoan cnidarian, Nematostella vectensis, an important model for evolutionary studies given their position within the metazoan clade as the sister group to all bilaterally symmetrical animals. During his postdoctoral training with Prof. Mark Q. Martindale, Dr. Naveen Wijesena has advanced his skills in applying novel techniques including transient and integrated transgene expression, Cel-Seq (single cell RNA-seq) and CRISPR/Cas9 knock outs and knock ins to investigate the critical role played by gene regulatory networks during early embryonic development using marine invertebrate systems. Dr. Naveen Wijesena`s current research is focused on exploring how evolutionary constraints have driven the radiation of animal body plans and how life history evolution shape development. He is using both experimental and computational approaches to address these questions using marine invertebrate systems.