21st Century - Biology

Susan M. Gasser

Susan M. Gasser (born 1955) is a Swiss molecular biologist. From 2004 to 2019 she was the director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, where she also led a research group from 2004 until 2021. She was in parallel professor of molecular biology at the University of Basel until April 2021. Since January 2021, Susan Gasser is director of the ISREC Foundation, which supports translational cancer research. She is also professor invité at the University of Lausanne in the department of fundamental microbiology. She is an expert in quantitative biology and studies epigenetic inheritance and genome stability.[1] Recipient of multiple swiss and European awards, she was named member of the US Academy of Sciences in 2022.

Early career

Susan Gasser received her doctorate from the University of Basel in biochemistry in 1982 at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, after a BA at the University of Chicago with an honors thesis in biophysics (1979). For her PhD she developed an in vitro system for the import of mitochondrial proteins, demonstrating its energy-dependence and identifying compartment-specific processing pathways for protein import, advised by Gottfried (Jeff) Schatz. As a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Geneva with Ulrich K. Laemmli,[1][2] she established roles for topoisomerase II in metaphase chromosome structure (Gasser et al., JMB 1986) and for A/T-rich sequences in long-range chromatin folding (Gasser and Laemmli, Cell 1986). She established her own laboratory at the ISREC Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Epalinges in 1986.


Gasser led a research group at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Epalinges sur Lausanne until 2001. There she pioneered live fluorescence imaging of telomeres and repressed chromatin in budding yeast, coupled with biochemical and genetic approaches to understand chromosome structure and nuclear organization. She was named professor of molecular biology at the University of Geneva in 2001, prior to moving to lead the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, as its director, in 2004. At the FMI she led a research group studying the spatial organization of double-strand break repair and checkpoint activation in budding yeast, and established and exploited means to study the spatial organization and genetic control of heterochromatin in C. elegans. From 2005 – 2021 she also held the position of full professor at the University of Basel. Since February 2021, she is the director of the ISREC Foundation, which built and maintains the new Agora institute of translational cancer research in Lausanne, Switzerland. Susan Gasser also holds the position of guest professor at the University of Lausanne.

Initially studying chromatin organization in budding yeast, her laboratory combined genetic, biochemical and fluorescence microscopy approaches, developing quantitative live imaging tools to study the subnuclear dynamics of DNA loci in living cells. Her work elucidated roles of histone modifications and turnover in genome stability and in the spatial organization of chromatin in the interphase nucleus, with an emphasis on the function of subnuclear compartments both in yeast, and in C. elegans during tissue differentiation.

Gasser has served on review boards and advisory councils throughout Switzerland, Europe.[1][2][3] and Japan, and is currently chair of the strategic advisory board of the Helmholtz Society Health Program of Germany. She serves on the ETH board (Rat der Eidgenossosichen Technischen Hochschulen) and the Swiss Science Council. She served on the Gairdner Foundation Medical Prize committee, the EMBL Science Advisory Council (SAC), and numerous foundation boards in Switzerland. She was vice chairperson and then chairperson of the EMBO Council (2000-2004) and a member of the President’s Science and Technology Advisory Council (PSTAC; 2012-2014) for the European Commission. Susan led the Gender Committee of the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2014- 2019, and initiated the PRIMA program for the promotion of women in academia, actively promoting the careers of women scientists in Switzerland. In Japan, she co-founded the Women in Science Japan organization. Susan Gasser was elected to the National Academy of Science (US), the Académie de France, Leopoldina, EMBO, AAAS, as well as the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, and received the INSERM International Prize in 2011, the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award in 2012, the Weizmann Institute Women in Science award, the Otto Naegeli prize in medical research (2006). She holds honorary doctorates from the University of Lausanne, the University of Fribourg, the University of Geneva and the Charles University in Prague. In Switzerland she was also recipient of the Friedrich Miescher Award (1991(, the National Latsis Prize (1992), the Otto Naegeli Prize in Medical Sciences (2006) and the Lelio Orci Award (2023).

She has published over 300 articles and reviews in leading journals (see Google Scholar entry) and serves on editorial boards of Molecular Cell, Genes & Development among other journals.

Career history

1977-1979: University of Chicago, Illinois, United States, Bachelor of Arts with honours in biophysics[3]
1979-1982: University of Basel (Biozentrum) PhD Magna cum laude in biochemistry, thesis advisor: Prof. G. Schatz[3]
1983-1986: maître assistant, Prof. U. K. Laemmli, University of Geneva, Department of Molecular Biology[3]
1986-1990: junior group leader, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research[3]
1991-2001: senior group leader, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research[3]
2001-2004: full professor, department of molecular biology, University of Geneva, Geneva[3]
2004-2019: director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel[3]
2005-2021: full professor in molecular biology, University of Basel[3]
2021–present: director of the ISREC Foundation, Lausanne and guest professor in fundamental microbiology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

External appointments (selected)

1993-2002 Member, research council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Bern
2000-2009 Member, selection committee, SNF Career Professorship Program, Bern
2002-2003 Member, selection jury, Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), Paris
2000-2005 Member, vice-chair and chair of the EMBO Council, Heidelberg, Germany
2004-2007 Member, search committee, Körber-Foundation, Hamburg
2006-2016 Board of directors, Gebert Rüf Foundation, Basel
2005-2010 Advisory Board Cancer Research UK, London Research Institutes, London
2006-2012 Advisory Group on Health Research FP7, European Commission, Brussels
2006-2008 advisory board, Max Planck Institute for Dev. Biology, Tübingen
2006-2011 advisory board, Center for Integrative Genomics, Lausanne
2007-2015 advisory board for Wellcome Trust Centre for Research, Dundee, Scotland
2007-2014 advisory board for Max Planck Institute for Immunology, Freiburg
2008-2018 Member of the Nestlé Nutrition Council, Nestlé SA, Vevey, Switzerland
2012-2017 Member, Wissenschafliches Beirat of the Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin
2016-now Member, Crick Institute Review Board, Scientific Advisory Board, London 2012,
2012-2016 advisory board for Max Planck Institut for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, German
2013-2014 President’s Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) of the European Commission
2012-2015 Selection committee for the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science Prize
2003-2018 Member, Human Frontiers Science Organization Grant Review and Career Development Committees, Strasbourg
2014-2018 Member, executive board, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation
2014-2020 Chairwoman, Gender Commission of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Bern
2015-2022 Member, scientific advisory council, European Molecular Biology Laboratories, Heidelberg, Germany
since 2017 Member, scientific advisory board, University of Tokyo Institute of Quantitative Biology, Tokyo, Japan
2015-2022 Member, Gairdner Prize Award committee, Toronto, Canada
since 2016 Member, Swiss Wissenschaftsrat (Swiss Science Council, SSC), Bern
since 2018 Member, ETH Board (Governing Board of the ETH Domain), Switzerland
2019-2027 Chair, strategic board of the Helmholtz Society Health Program, Germany
2019 Chair, review board of the systems biology department, Weizmann Inst. Rehovot, Israel
since 2020 Member, scientific advisory board, Biozentrum der Universität Basel
2020-2022 Board of trustees, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), Austria
since 2020 Chair, international review panel for ONCODE network, NL
since 2021 Review board VIB, then scientific advisory board member, Belgium
since 2021 Board of directors, UCB, Brussels, Belgium


2022 Honorary doctorate, University of Geneva, Switzerland[4]
2022 Elected international member of the National Academy of Sciences USA[5]
2021 Honorary doctorate, University of Fribourg, Switzerland[6]
2016 Honorary doctorate, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic[7]
2016 Lee Hartwell Award of the Genetics Society of America
2014 Doctorat honoris causa, University of Lausanne
2013 Member of the EC Presidents Science and Technology advisory Council (PSTAC)[8]
2013 Weizmann Institute, Women in Science Award[8]
2012 FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award[8][9]
2011 Prix International de l’INSERM, France[8]
2009 Election to American Association for the Advancement of Science[8]
2009 London Royal Society of Chemistry “Nucleic Acid” Award[8]
2007 Election to German Academy of Science, Leopoldina[8]
2006 Election to Academy of Medical Sciences, Switzerland[8]
2006 Gregor Mendel Medal, Czech Academy of Science[8]
2006 Otto Naegeli Prize for Biomedical Research, Switzerland[8]
2005 Foreign member, Académie des Sciences, Institut de France[8]
1999 Medal of Honor, 3rd Medical Faculty of Charles University, Prague[8]
1998 Election to Academia Europaea[8]
1994 Friedrich Miescher Prize, Swiss Society for Biochemistry[8]
1993 Member, EMBO[1]
1991 National Latsis Prize, Swiss National Science Foundation[8]

Selected publications

2020 The LSM2-8 complex and XRN-2 mediate RNA decay at H3K27me3-marked genes in C. elegans. Nature Cell Biology, doi: 10.1038/s41556-020-0504-1 Mattout A, Gaidatzis D, Padeken J, Schmid CD, Aeschlimann F, Kalck V and Gasser SM [10]
2019 Active chromatin marks drive spatial sequestration of heterochromatin in differentiated cells. Nature 569, 734 – 739. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1243-y Cabianca D, Munoz Jimenez C, Kalck V, Gaidatzis D, Padeken J, Askjaer P and Gasser SM [10]
2017 Histone degradation in response to DNA damage enhances chromatin dynamics and recombination rates. Nature Struct. Mol. Biology, 24, 99 – 107. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.3347v Hauer MH, Seeber A, Singh V, Thierry R, Sack R, Amitai A, Kryzhanovska M, Eglinger J, Holcman D, Owen-Hughes T and Gasser SM [10]
2016 Histone H3K9 methylation is dispensable for C. elegans development, but suppresses RNA-DNA hybrid-associated repeat instability. Nature Genetics, 48, 1385 – 1395. doi: 10.1038/ng.3672 Zeller P, Padeken J, van Schendel R, Kalck V, Tijsterman M and Gasser SM [10]
2015 Perinuclear Anchoring of H3K9-Methylated Chromatin Stabilizes Induced Cell Fate in C. elegans embryos. Cell, 163, 1333 – 1347 Gonzalez-Sandoval A, Towbin BD, Kalck V, Cabianca DS, Gaidatzis D, Hauer MH, Geng L, Wang L, Yang T, Wang X, Zhao K and Gasser SM [10]
2013 TORC2 signaling pathway guarantees genome stability in face of DNA strand breaks. Mol Cell, 51:829-839, Shimada K, Fillipuzzi I, Stahl M, Helliwell SB, Seeber A, Loewith R, Movva R, Gasser SM[10]
2013 The shelterin protein POT-1 anchors C. elegans telomeres through SUN-1 at the nuclear periphery. J Cell Biol, 203:727-35, Ferreira HC, Towbin BD, Jegou T, Gasser SM[10]
2013 Checkpoint kinases and nucleosome remodelers enhance global chromatin mobility in response to DNA damage. Genes Dev, 27:1999-2008. doi:10.1101/gad.222992.113, Seeber A, Dion V, Gasser SM [10]
2013 Cohesin and the nucleolus constrain the mobility of spontaneous repair foci. EMBO Rep. 14:984-991, Dion V, Kalck V, Seeber A, Schleker T, Gasser SM[10]
2013 SIR proteins and the assembly of silent chromatin in budding yeast. Annu Rev Genet. 47:275-306, Kueng S, Oppikofer M, Gasser SM [10]
2012 Step-wise methylation of histone H3K9 positions chromosome arms at the nuclear periphery in C. elegans embryos. Cell, 150:934-947, Towbin BD, Gonzalez-Aguilera C, Sack R, Gaidatzis D, Kalck V, Meister P, Askjaer P, Gasser SM [10]
2012 Increased dynamics of double strand breaks requires Mec1, Rad9 and the homologous recombination machinery. Nat. Cell Biol. 14:502-509, Dion V, Kalck V, Horigome C, Towbin BD, Gasser SM[10]
2012 Targeted INO80 enhances subnuclear chromatin movement and ectopic homologous recombination. Genes Dev 26:369-38 Neumann FR, Dion V, Gehlen L, Tsai-Pflugfelder M, Schmid R, Taddei A, Gasser SM[10]
2008 Functional Targeting of DNA Damage to a Nuclear Pore-associated SUMO-dependent Ubiquitin ligase. Science, 322, 597 – 602 Nagai S, Dubrana K, Tsai-Pflugfelder M, Davidson MB, Roberts TM, Brown GW, Varela E, Hediger F, Gasser SM* and Krogan NJ [10]
2005 Automatic tracking of individual fluorescence particles – Application to the study of chromosome dynamics. IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, 14, 1372 – 1383 Sage D, Neumann FR, Hediger F, Gasser SM and Unser M [10]
2004 INO80 recruitment by H2A phosphorylation links ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling with DNA double-strand break repair. Cell, 119, 777 – 788 van Attikum H, Fritsch O, Hohn B and Gasser SM [10]

Notes and references

  1. Jump up to:a b c d “Susan Gasser”. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  2. Jump up to:a b “Susan M. Gasser Profile”. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i “Coordinator:Prof. Dr.Susan Gasser”. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  4. ^ “Notre directrice, la Prof. Susan M. Gasser, reçoit le titre de docteure honoris causa de l’Université de Genève”. 17 October 2022.
  5. ^ “2022 NAS Election”.
  6. ^ “Susan Gasser erhält die Ehrendoktorwürde der Universität Fribourg | ETH-Rat”.
  7. ^ “Susan Gasser erhält Ehrendoktor der Prager Karls-Universität”www.unibas.ch.
  8. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o “Biography”. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  9. ^ “Susan M. Gasser to receive the 2012 FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award”. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  10. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p “List Of Selected Publications”. Retrieved 7 August 2015.

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