Claude Desplan


New York, US

genes evolution molecular development ecological visual system

Claude Desplan is a Silver Professor of Biology and of Neuroscience at NYU and an Affiliate Professor at the CGSB at NYU in Abu Dhabi. Dr. Desplan was born in Algeria and was trained at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in St. Cloud, France. He received his DSc at INSERM in Paris in 1983, working with M.S. Moukhtar and M. Thomasset on calcium regulation. He joined Pat O’Farrell at UCSF as a postdoc, where he demonstrated that the homeodomain, a conserved signature of many developmental genes, is a DNA binding motif. In 1987, he joined the Faculty of Rockefeller University as an HHMI Assistant and Associate Investigator to pursue structural studies of the homeodomain and the evolution of axis formation.

In 1999, Dr. Desplan joined NYU, where he investigates the generation of neural diversity using the Drosophila visual system. His team has described the molecular mechanisms that pattern the eye and showed how stochastic decisions contribute to the diversification of photoreceptors. It also investigates the development and function of the optic lobes where neuronal diversity is generated by spatio-temporal patterning of neuroblasts, a mechanism that also applies to cortical development in mammals. Recently, his lab has also provided a functional understanding of the neuronal and computational mechanisms underlying motion detection.

His laboratory also uses ‘evo-devo’ approaches to understand the mechanisms by which sensory systems adapt to different ecological conditions, from flies to ants to butterflies.

Dr. Desplan serves on multiple scientific advisory boards and committees for funding agencies. He is an elected member of the AAAS of EMBO, the New York Academy of Sciences, as well as the US National Academy of Sciences.