Previous speakers and artists

MARCH 16-20, 2009

Biomedical science, world health and world peace

Prof. H. Robert Horvitz

Keynote Speaker

Professor Howard Robert Horvitz is a microbiologist who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discoveries concerning the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death (apoptosis).

Professor Horvitz has used genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, electrophysiology, laser microsurgery and pharmacology to study how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He began his prizewinning work on programmed cell death, a process that is essential for normal development, in the 1970s. During fetal development of humans, huge numbers of cells must be eliminated as body structures form. For example, programmed cell death sculpts the fingers and toes by removing tissue that was originally present between the digits. Likewise it removes surplus nerve cells produced during early development of the brain. In a typical adult human about one trillion new cells develop each day; a similar number must be eliminated to maintain health and to keep the body from becoming overgrown with surplus cells.

Professor Horvitz' research focused on determining if a specific genetic program controls cell death. His studies centered on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a near-microscopic soil worm that had been identified by Professor Sydney Brenner as an ideal organism on which to study programmed cell death.

In 1986 Professor Horvitz reported the first two "death genes", ced-3 and ced-4, which participate in the cell-killing process. Later he showed that another gene, ced-9, protects against cell death by interacting with ced-3 and ced-4. Professor Horvitz also established that humans have a counterpart ced-3 gene. Scientists later found that most of the genes involved in controlling programmed cell death in C. elegans have counterparts in humans. Such knowledge about programmed cell death contributed to important advances not only in developmental biology but also in medicine, especially concerning cancer treatments.

Aside from the role of programmed cell death in embryonic development, misregulation of programmed cell death may contribute to cancer and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. Teasing apart the components of the cell's system for regulating programmed cell death can greatly further understanding of diseases as well as the ability to treat them.

H. Robert Horvitz joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978 and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research in 2001. He received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University.

Professor Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience and the Louisa Gross Gorwitz Prize from Columbia University. He received MIT's James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award for 2005-2006.


Monday, March 16, 2009:
14:30 Keynote speech and dialogue at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (03) 8925-0651, fax (03) 8921-4097 email

Tuesday, March 17, 2009:
10:00 Keynote speech on and dialogue on "The ethics of biomedical science and research" at the University Malaya (UM) in Kuala Lumpur
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (03) 7967-3265, fax (03) 7967-7096, email

14:30 Dialogue with researchers hosted by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) at the Chancellory Building (Court Room) of the University Malaya (UM) in Kuala Lumpur
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (03) 2694-9898, fax (03) 2694-5858, email,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009:
14:30 Keynote speech and dialogue at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (04) 653-3114, 653-3104, fax (04) 658-9666, email,

Thursday, March 19, 2009:
14:00 Keynote speech and dialogue at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (02) 667-1382, fax (02) 667-2222, email

Friday, March 20, 2009:
10:00 Dialogue with high school students at the NIST International School in Bangkok (not a public event)

14:00 Keynote speech and dialogue at the National Science and Technology Development Agency of the Ministry of Science and Technology in Pathumthani
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (02) 564-7000 ext. 1530, fax (02) 564-7005, email