Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla is elected new member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
The Leopoldina as German National Academy of Sciences provides science-based advice to policymakers and the public, promoting a scientifically enlightened society and responsible application of scientific insights. Prof Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla from Helmholtz Munich and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich has now been elected as a new member, based on her exceptional work on epigenetics, reprogramming and stem cells.
Founded in 1652 as a scholarly society, the Leopoldina was appointed as the German National Academy of Sciences in 2008. It represents the German scientific community globally, providing expertise from a wide range of research. This year, Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla was elected as a member, acknowledging the contribution of her work to the field of life sciences and epigenetic mechanisms. The recognition of her achievement by Leopoldina further affirms her innovative vision, rigor in addressing scientific challenges and ground-breaking research in the fields of epigenetics, stem cells and developmental biology. It is also a testimony of the strength, and the internationally recognised positioning and leadership that Helmholtz Munich has in the stem cell field. Torres-Padilla points out: “I am extremely honoured by this recognition, and I see this as the result of hard work from all the people that have worked in my lab, for which I feel very lucky and grateful.”
Torres-Padilla is Director of the Helmholtz Munich Stem Cell Center, Director of the Institute for Epigenetics and Stem Cells, as well as Director of Biomedicine at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus and Chair of Stem Cell Biology at the Faculty of Biology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU). Her clear mission is: “cracking up the nucleus to unlock a cell’s true potential”. During her career she has focused on understanding fundamental transitions of development: cell fate regulation, reprogramming and stem cells. In particular, she wants to discover, how cellular plasticity is controlled by epigenetic processes.
Her group explores the establishment and maintenance of totipotency, as well as experimental manipulation of cellular plasticity and epigenetic reprogramming after fertilization in mammals. “Understanding the core transition from stem cells to acquiring a fate is important for understanding developmental processes, but also helps us to come closer to learn how we can manipulate this process to use in regeneration and cell therapies by creating cells ‘à la carte”, she explains.
In addition to her research work, Torres-Padilla has devoted her career to actively nurturing the next generation of scientific leaders and promoting the integration of science in society, advocating for ethical and responsible research. She believes that (one of) the key to success lies in the people you work with and in recruiting. “Don’t think you are better than the people you recruit, just because you are older. Build together with people. The whole recognition of the lab is very important; everybody has different roles, different objectives.”
Find out more about Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla
Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla pursued her studies in Biology at the National University of Mexico and completed her PhD at the Institute Pasteur in Paris. During her postdoctoral research at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, she utilized the early mouse embryo as a model system to uncover the central role of histone modifications and chromatin regulators in cell fate decisions during early mammalian development.
In 2008, she established her own research group dedicated to unraveling the epigenetic principles governing epigenetic reprogramming and cellular plasticity in mammals, contributing to our understanding of chromatin remodeling and its impact on cell potency and reprogramming.
Torres-Padilla received numerous awards, international grants and recognitions for her contribution to science and society, including, but not limited: in 2021, she was elected member of Academia Europeae, since 2019 she’s been Work Package Leader and Founder Member of the LifeTime European Initiative and in 2017 she was a Co-Chair World Economic Forum Annual Meeting ‘Summer Davos’.