Professor of Molecular Biology, University of Basel
Friedrich Miescher Institute
for Biomedical Research
T: +41 61 697 7255
F: +41 61 697 3976
Susan M. Gasser is a group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) and holds a professorship at the University of Basel. She was the FMI Director from 2004 to 2019. Prior to joining the FMI, she was a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Geneva.
Susan studied at the University of Chicago and completed her PhD at the University of Basel (Biochemistry; G. Schatz), working on the import of mitochondrial proteins. As a postdoctoral fellow, she studied the long-range folding of the genome in flies and human cells. She identified topoisomerase II as a structural component of mitotic chromosomes, and AT-rich sequences as elements of loop organization. From 1986-2001, as a research group leader at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, she combined genetic approaches and fluorescence microscopy to examine the impact of nuclear organization on genome function – specifically on heritable gene repression in yeast.
Susan Gasser's studies have continued to examine how nuclear organization impinges on mechanisms of repair and replication fork stability and on epigenetic inheritance of cell fate decisions. She exploits the genetics of model organisms in her studies, as well as quantitative live fluorescence imaging. Her laboratory identified mechanisms that tether telomeres and silent chromatin at the nuclear envelope. In parallel, they identified roles for RecQ helicases, checkpoint kinases and ORC in the maintenance of genome integrity. Over the last 10 years she has examined the role of nuclear organization and heterochromatin in the development of the nematode, C. elegans. The laboratory has contributed to our understanding of signals and anchors involved in chromatin positioning, both for active and inactive genes, and for various types of DNA double strand break repair.
She has authored more than 250 primary articles and reviews, and has received a number of awards for her work, including election to the Académie de France, to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award 2012, the Weizmann Institute Women in Science award 2013, the INSERM International Prize in 2011, and both the Otto Naegeli Award and the Gregor Mendel Medal in 2006. She was a member of the President’s Science and Technology Advisory Council of the European Commission, and serves on scientific review panels for institutes across Europe.