Kafatos to Leave CDB

Biology Prof. Will Head European Lab

Professor of Biology Fotis C. Kafatos, a developmental biologist, will resign his position at Harvard after this semester to become director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), faculty members said yesterday.

Kafatos, 53, will leave a gap in the Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology (CDB), according to American Cancer Society Professor of Cellular and Developmental Biology Raymond L. Erikson.

"It's a major loss for our department...but it's clear he had a major opportunity it would be difficult to pass up," Erikson said. "He has been a marvelous colleague."

EMBL is an international laboratory supported by 14 European member states. Scientists at the Munich-based laboratory perform research on a wide variety of topics in biology and related sciences.

Erikson, who will become chair of CDB on July 1, said a faculty search to replace Kafatos will likely begin next year, but the department has not determined the specially it will seek in its incoming professor or professors.


"There will certainly be an effort to replace him," said Erikson, "but it's not clear what form it will take."

Kafatos this semester co-teaches Biological Sciences I, "Introductory Genetics, Molecular, and Developmental Biology," and this year offered graduate level courses in biology and biophysics.

The departing professor, who joined Harvard's faculty in 1965 and received tenure in 1969, is also the founder and director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the Research Center of Crete. He will resign all of his other positions when he takes over at EMBL.

Kafatos had a major impact at Harvard, according to Professor of Biology William M. Gelbart. In the early 1980s, Kafatos was a key figure in making CDB a department, rather than a subcommittee of the biology department, Gelbart said.

"He really created the Department of Cellular and Departmental Biology," Gelbart said.

Kafatos' work centers on insect genetic processes, Gelbart said. "He's done outstanding research on how gene regulation can be coordinated between many, many genes," Gelbart said.

Kafatos' new position is an extremely prominent one, said Professor of Biology Howard C. Berg. "It's one of the leading molecular biological labs in the world," Berg said.

Controversy has surrounded Kafatos' appointment, however, according to a recent report in Nature.

There is conflict between the laboratory and the council of member countries that governs it, the journal reported. The dispute emerged when Italy threatened to sue the laboratory if Kafatos maintained his links to other institutions, including Harvard.

Kafatos has vowed that as director-general, he will emphasize inclusiveness toward female researchers and toward scientists from developing nations.

He will also work to increase cooperation with countries' research programs, according to Nature.