Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2023

Benoît Ladoux

How cells sense and respond to mechanical signals is an important aspect of many biological processes, including the development of tissue structures and diseases like cancer. By recruiting the eminent researcher, Benoît Ladoux, Erlangen wants to become a beacon for mechanobiology on the international research landscape.

  • Nominating University: FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
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Benoît Ladoux’s special research interest is located at the intersection of biophysics, cell biology and engineering, in a field known as mechanobiology, in which the physicist is a world leader. Using unconventional approaches and thinking out of the box, he has achieved ground-breaking pioneering work and developed new technologies.

His interdisciplinary team wants to discover how cells and tissue generate and respond to mechanical forces and how, conversely, this stress determines changes in the form, migration and differentiation of cells during development. Insights into such principles of cell self-organisation play an important role in developmental biology and cancer research.
In order to investigate these issues, Ladoux and his team have built a raft of micro and nano fabrication tools which can control and measure the chemical and mechanical environment of cells. One example is the use of so-called micropillars to measure cell force: for this purpose, the cells are fixed on a surface which has tiny mobile columns acting as force sensors. Their deformation can be captured by a light microscope.

In his role as a Humboldt Professor at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Benoît Ladoux is invited to work on translating basic mechanobiological research into concrete health care in areas such as the barrier function of the intestinal mucosal membrane and tumour development. He is invited to assume one of the four leadership positions and a professorship in biophysics at the Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, an interdisciplinary joint research center run by FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (UKER) and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light. Here he is scheduled to cooperate with, amongst others, two further Humboldt Professors, Jochen Guck and Kristian Franze, to facilitate synergies.

Brief bio

The physicist, Benoît Ladoux, completed his doctorate at the Université Paris VII (Diderot), France, in 2000 and initially worked there as a postdoc, assistant professor and, since 2010, as a full professor. In 2015, he was appointed Research Director 2nd class at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), becoming a Research Director 1st class in the CNRS Institut Jacques Monod in 2019. From 2010 to 2018, he was also a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore. He has received many honours and ERC Grants, most recently an ERC Advanced Grant in 2020.

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