12th ISTT Prize to be Awarded to Lluis Montoliu, PhD

Posted by: Jan Parker-Thornburg on Thursday, June 14, 2018

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) is pleased to announce that the 12th ISTT Prize will be awarded to Dr. Lluis Montoliu for his seminal work on YAC transgenesis that led the way for large DNA modifications in the mouse, and for his work in establishment of the ISTT.  The ISTT Prize is awarded to investigators who have made outstanding contributions to the field of transgenic technologies.  The awardee for the 12th ISTT Prize was chosen by the ISTT Prize Committee, which consists of the ISTT President, Vice President, Past President, the CEO of genOway (the company that generously sponsors the award), and all previous ISTT prize awardees.

The Award Committee considered that Dr. Montoliu’s work that established artificial chromosome-type mouse transgenesis led to a new foray into genetically modified organisms that allowed for inclusion of critical regulatory elements that were often missing in previous experiments, thereby representing a major improvement in transgenic technology. Long active in transgenic technology (his PhD on plant molecular genetics led to the generation of the first transgenic tobacco plants with maize genes in Spain), Dr. Montoliu was the host of TT2005, held in Barcelona, Spain, bringing to Southern Europe the transgenic technology meetings that had been promoted from Sweden by Johannes Wilbertz beginning in 1998. At that meeting, he also seeded the development of an inclusive organization that would represent the needs and interests of transgenic technologists, not only researchers but also technicians and others involved in the generation and analysis of transgenic animals, which came to full fruition and was founded as the International Society of Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) in January of 2006. It is due to his input and continued attention that the ISTT has grown from an initial membership of 125 to its current status of over 700 members worldwide. Dr. Montoliu served as the first President of the ISTT from 2006 to 2014. Not to rest on his laurels, Dr. Montoliu is now leading the foundation of a new Association for Responsible Research and Innovation in Genome Editing (ARRIGE) whose goal is to promote ethical perspectives and responsible use of genome editing techniques through the engagement of all stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Dr. Lluis Montoliu was born in Barcelona in 1963. He graduated in Biological Sciences in 1986 from the University of Barcelona and subsequently received his PhD in the field of Molecular Genetics from the University of Barcelona in 1990, studying with Prof. Pere Puigdomènech.  Upon completing his PhD studies, he held consecutive postdoctoral appointments in Heidelberg (German Cancer Research Center-DKFZ, 1991-1995) and Barcelona (Autonomous University of Barcelona-UAB, 1995-96). He is currently a Research Scientist of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), establishing his laboratory at the National Centre for Biotechnology (CNB), in Madrid (Spain) in 1997. In 2007, he was appointed group leader researcher at the Spanish Biomedical Research Networking Centre on Rare Diseases (CIBERER) at the Spanish National Health Institute Carlos III (ISCIII) where he is also serving on its Steering Committee and coordinating the Neurosensory Pathology Program. Since 1998, he has taught Master courses as Honorary Professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and was named the Director of the Spanish node of the European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA/INFRAFRONTIER) in 1997.

From 1986, when he began his investigations in plant molecular genetics, Dr. Montoliu has continually worked on the genetic modification of organisms (GMOs). His first exposure to transgenic mice occurred during a summer stay in Heidelberg in 1989. Becoming intrigued, he attended a mouse transgenesis course in Siena (Italy) in 1990, where he learned the steps in the generation of a transgenic mouse from Prof. Laura Pozzi, whom Dr. Montoliu always recognized as his first mentor in mouse transgenesis. He has been working on scientific projects within the field of animal transgenesis ever since. At the CNB he leads a research team interested in basic science, to understand the mechanisms controlling gene expression and organization in mammalian genomes, and in applied science, generating animal models for the study and the development of therapies for treating congenital human rare diseases, such as albinism. He has contributed significantly to animal transgenesis methods developing artificial chromosome transgenesis. He has also been a Spanish pioneer in the use of gene-editing CRISPR approaches for the in vivo analysis of functional regulatory elements found in the non-coding genome. Currently, he is involved in collaborative efforts towards the universal genetic diagnosis of all known forms of albinism and collaborates with patient’s associations, such as ALBA, the Spanish association in support of people with albinism and has become co-chair of the Scientific Committee of Albinism Europe.

To date, Dr. Montoliu has supervised 14 PhD students, published more than 100 articles and co-invented several patents in the field. He is the current President of the European Society for Pigment Cell Research (ESPCR) and serves on the boards of several additional societies (IFPCS, IMGS, ACB). He is a member of the CSIC Ethics Committee and of the Ethics Panel of the European Research Council (ERC) in Brussels.

In addition to research, he is intensely involved in bioethics, education and popular science. Here you can view a TED talk given by Dr. Montoliu in Madrid (in Spanish with English subtitles). Dr Montoliu often presents to mass media (press, radio, TV) in Spain, an outreach activity that translates research advances into lay language accessible to all.

We are delighted that Dr. Lluis Montoliu agreed to receive the ISTT Prize, thus joining the list of previously honored scientists (in descending chronological order):  Mario Capecchi (2017), Janet Rossant (2014), Allan Bradley (2013), Ralph Brinster (2011), Francis Stewart (2010), Brigid Hogan (2008), Charles Babinet (2007), Andras Nagy (2005), Qi Zhou (2004), Kenneth McCreath (2002), Teruhiko Wakayama (2001). All ISTT Prize winners are given honorary ISTT membership and a unique silver sculpture representing a mouse blastocyst created by the Hungarian artist Béla Rozsnyay. Dr. Montoliu will receive his prize at the 15th Transgenic Technology Meeting (TT2019) that will be held in Kobe Japan, 7-10 April 2019.


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