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Invited Speakers

Blanche Capel

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Blanche Capel is a James B. Duke Professor of Cell Biology at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Capel completed her post-doctoral work in the laboratory of Robin Lovell-Badge, following a Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. Beatrice Mintz at Fox Chase Cancer Center. The Capel lab studies sex determination – the process by which the gonad differentiates into a testis or ovary and the germ cells commit to oogonia or spermatogonia fate. Questions currently addressed in the lab are how the early gonad is initially established, how cells in the gonad community co-ordinate their fate, and how fate is maintained through epigenetic mechanisms. Evolutionarily, sex determination is a very plastic process. As a comparative model for sex determination, the lab investigates the red-eared slider turtle, T. scripta. In this species, the temperature of egg incubation controls gonadal sex determination. Experimental approaches in the lab include the use of molecular and biochemical techniques, advanced imaging methods, null mutant mice, transgenic reporter mice, organ culture/tissue recombination assays, mouse genetics and genomics, and systems biology/bioinformatics tools.

James Turner

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James Turner is Assistant Research Director at the Francis Crick institute and a Wellcome Trust Investigator, working on mammalian sex chromosome biology. He identified the mechanisms causing infertility in the most common sex chromosome abnormalities Turner syndrome (XO), Jacob syndrome (XYY) and Klinefelter syndrome (XXY). He also devised the first therapeutic approaches to reverse germ cell loss in these conditions. He identified multiple components of the germ cell surveillance pathways that protect offspring from genome instability and aneuploidy. He overturned several dogmas in the sex chromosome field, for instance showing that the X chromosome, previously assumed to be the female-specialised counterpart to the male Y chromosome, contains hundreds of genes regulating sperm formation. He has championed the use of marsupials to resolve major unanswered questions in sex chromosome evolution and epigenetics. He discovered the non-coding RNA Rsx, the long-sought after marsupial equivalent of the eutherian X-inactivation initiating RNA Xist. He also identified Xsr, the Rsx-antisense RNA that may control imprinting of X-inactivation in marsupials. These discoveries provided a comparative system with which to dissect how non-coding RNAs regulate gene expression. Most recently, he created the first CRISPR-based system for generating all-male or all-female mouse litters, an achievement that will be of great relevance to research and agriculture. His achievements have been acknowledged by election as an EMBO member and a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Marie-Christine Chaboissier


Marie-Christine Chaboissier is group leader at the iBV in Nice, where she directs a program to understand sex determination and fertility in mice. After a PhD and postdoc to study transposable elements in Drosophila (France and Scotland), she moved to Berlin (Germany) to work in the lab of Andreas Schedl. There, she contributed to demonstrate that a key role of SOX9 is to drive testis development using mouse models. She moved to Nice (France) in 2003 and started to work on ovarian differentiation. Her team has shown the involvement of R-spondin1, an activator of canonical WNT signalling, in gonadal progenitor cell proliferation and they deciphered how Rspo1 signalling stabilizes ovarian development. Further they revealed the involvement of WNT signalling in the timing of meiosis entry and her team contributed to highlight the dispensable effect of retinoic acid in meiosis entry. In addition to demonstrating that Rspo1 is required in ovarian differentiation, her team also showed that Rspo2 is essential for folliculogenesis after birth. Her current work focuses on sex determination and sexual differentiation of the cell lineages constituting the mouse gonad.

Arthur Georges

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Arthur Georges has worked on sex determination in reptiles as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist interested in how the complex thermal environment in nests influences sexual outcomes in unexpected ways. The proposition that genetic and environmental sex determination represent ends of a continuum rather than a distinct dichotomy, led to the development of a reptile model in which the influence sex chromosomes on offspring sex is over-ridden by incubation temperature. Work on this model has yielded excellent insight into the molecular mechanisms of thermolabile sex, the evolutionary transitions between TSD and GSD, and how environment interacts with genotype to determine sexual fate. His work is of direct relevance to how reptiles have survived past climate changes, and how human activities constrain their ability to respond to future environmental challenges. Refer http://

Amaury Herpin

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Amaury Herpin graduated in cellular biology from the University of Caen (France). He moved to the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology ⁄ EMBL in Bergen (Norway) where he earned his PhD degree in 2003, working on the evolution of the TGF-beta signalling pathways. Next, he joined the group of Pr. Manfred Schartl at the University of Wuerzburg (Germany), where he studied molecular sex determination and gonad formation in the medaka fish.Since 2015, Amaury is Principal Investigator at the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE, Rennes, France). His research focuses on understanding the evolutionary foundations of sex determination in fishes (and beyond). Notably, he studies the evolution-transitions-convergence of master sex-determining genes and systems across species, as well as the molecular and functional bases of the adaptation of regulatory networks downstream of these sex determinants, including the epigenetic dimension.

Julie Bakker

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Julie Bakker studied biology at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She conducted her doctoral thesis in Endocrinology & Reproduction at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Then she was a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University for 4 years. She finally settled at Liège University, Belgium, where she obtained a permanent research position funded by the Belgian Science Foundation (FNRS) in 2004. She was promoted to Research Director FNRS in 2016. Her main research objective is to elucidate the genetic and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying the sexual differentiation of the brain. She uses transgenic mouse models for more mechanistic studies as well as neuroimaging techniques (functional and structural MRI) and postmortem analyses of patients with disorders of sexual differentiation (DSD) or suffering from gender dysphoria (GD) to translate and validate findings obtained in animal models. She is the current director of the department GIGA Neurosciences at Liège University.

Mike McGrew

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Dr Mike McGrew is chair of Avian Reproduction at the Roslin Institute, part of the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Dr McGrew earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota and a PhD in Biochemistry from Boston University Medical School. He carried out postdoctoral training at the IBDM, Marseille France and at the Roslin Institute. 

Studies using the chicken have made very significant contributions to understanding the development of vertebrates owing to the ease in manipulating the chicken embryo. The chick model system has become even more useful with the sequencing of the chicken genome and development of a robust method for transgenesis in the chicken. The McGrew laboratory works on a type of stem cell, the germ cell, which produces the sperm and eggs of birds. It was shown that migratory primordial germ cells from the chicken could be cultured in vitro for extended periods and used to generate transgenic chickens. His lab developed a culture system for chicken primordial cells which allows these cells to be expanded indefinitely in vitro. They use this system to study gametogenesis and to investigate genes involved in sexual determination in birds.

Takashi Yoshino


Dr. Takashi Yoshino is an assistant professor at Kyushu University. He studied initiation of gonadal somatic cell differentiation in early chicken embryos with Professor Yoshiko Takahashi at Kyoto University. Based on this study, he induced gonadal somatic cells from mouse ESCs and reconstitute ovarian organoid by recapitulating female sex differentiation with Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi at Kyushu University. 

Andrew Sinclair

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Professor Andrew Sinclair is Deputy Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Professor of Translational Genomics, Dept. of Paediatrics at The University of Melbourne, and a Board Director of the Victorian Clinical Genetics Service.  Nationally, Professor Sinclair co-led the Australian Genomic Health Alliance, a network of over 40 organisations, that integrated genomics into the Australian health care system. Currently he leads the Australian Functional Genomics Network which fosters collaboration between model organism researchers and clinicians to facilitate and fund collaborations for the interpretation for VUSs and translation into clinical practice. His research focuses on disorders of sex development; genomics and diagnosis to inform clinical care. His contributions have been fundamental to the advancement of the field including significant gene discovery and development of an accurate, rapid diagnostic assay that has improved outcomes for patients with DSD. He has received numerous awards and in 2014 was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for his distinguished leadership.

Roser Vento-Tormo

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Roser Vento-Tormo’s research interest is to understand the influence of cellular microenvironments on individual cellular identities and responses, in the context of development and immunity. Her team ( employs single-cell and spatial transcriptomics methods to deconstruct the cell signals in human organs and tissues, and utilise this information to inform the reconstruction of novel in vitro models. Essential for this work, is the novel computational tools her team develops to build cell–cell interactions networks from transcriptomics data. In her predoctoral research, she studied the interplay between cell signalling and epigenetic machinery key to regulating cellular fate decisions in myeloid cells. She pursued her postdoctoral studies in the Teichmann laboratory as an EMBO / HFSP fellow, where she developed, a computational tool to study cell-cell communication from single-cell transcriptomics data. She used CellPhoneDB to disentangle the complex communication between maternal and fetal cells in the uterine-placental interface during early human pregnancy. Vento-Tormo work has been funded by many recognised international agencies (H2020, MRC, CZI, Wellcome-LEAP), and she has recently obtained the Early Career Research Award from the Biochemistry Society (2021).

Ben Parrott


Benjamin Parrott is an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Odum School of Ecology, where he leads a research group in Integrative Organismal Ecology. The Parrott Lab is currently investigating how interactions between organisms and their environment leads to variation in life histories, reproductive function, and aging biology.

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