Claude Desplan, D.Sc./Ph.D., is a Silver Professor in the Department of Biology at New York University. Using Drosophila as a model system, his laboratory focuses on understanding the development and functioning of the visual system.
Dr. Desplan was trained at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in St. Cloud, France. He received his DSc at INSERM in Paris in 1983 working with M.S. Moukhtar and M. Thomasset on calcium regulation. He joined Pat O'Farrell at UCSF as a postdoc. He demonstrated that the homeodomain, a conserved signature of many developmental genes is a DNA binding motif. In 1987, he joined the Faculty of Rockefeller University as an HHMI Assistant and Associate Investigator to pursue structural studies of the homeodomain and the evolution of axis formation.
In 1999, Dr. Desplan joined NYU where he investigates the neural basis of color vision in Drosophila. His team has described the molecular mechanisms that pattern photoreceptors and showed how stochastic decisions, a transcription factor network and a tumor suppressor pathway contribute to the diversification of photoreceptors. His lab also investigates the development and function of the optic lobes where neuronal diversity is generated by the lineage of neuroblasts and by spatial inputs. Recently, his lab has also provided a functional understanding of the neuronal and computational mechanisms underlying motion detection.
His laboratory also uses ‘evo-devo’ approaches to show how insect embryos pattern their antero-posterior axis through extensive rewiring of a network of evolutionarily conserved genes. He also uses the ant Harpegnathos and other insects to study the evolution of the visual system.
Dr. Desplan serves on multiple scientific advisory boards and in funding agencies. He is an elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an elected foreign member of EMBO, and an elected fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences.