Public Release: 

Fiona Watt to receive the 2016 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award


Heidelberg, 26 February 2016 - EMBO and FEBS announce Fiona Watt, Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King's College London, as the winner of the 2016 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award.

Professor Watt receives the award for uncovering the mechanisms that control mammalian epidermal stem cell renewal and differentiation, and for discovering how these processes are deregulated in cancer, wound healing and inflammatory skin disorders.

The FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award recognizes outstanding achievements of female researchers in life sciences. Winners of the award are role models who inspire future generations of researchers.

Fiona Watt has made numerous fundamental discoveries, most recently about how the epidermis interacts with different classes of dermal fibroblasts, and how these normal signalling mechanisms go awry in cancer and skin disease. Over the past few years, the British biologist has focused on using new technologies to understand what controls the fate of human epidermal stem cells. She was one of the first to discover that processes such as inflammation, physical forces and epigenetics influence skin stem cell behaviour.

"Her research continues to be at the cutting edge," said Brigid Hogan of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, United States. "She has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and in her leadership positions she has worked tirelessly to build interactive and collaborative research communities."

"I am absolutely delighted to receive this honour," said the award winner upon hearing of her distinction.

Fiona Watt was also recognized for her commitment to gender issues, her leadership qualities and her active mentorship of junior scientists. In a series of interviews she held with 24 female scientists she exposed the barriers and challenges that women who pursue a career in science face. The interviews were published in the Journal of Cell Science, for which she served as Editor-in-Chief for almost a decade, until 2011. As a stem cells expert she also played a key role in promoting the British government's investments in stem cell research.

The 2016 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award of 10,000 Euros will be presented to Fiona Watt on 6 September at the FEBS Congress in Ephesus / Kusadasi, Turkey, where she will give a special lecture. Nominations for the 2017 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award close on 1 October 2016. For more information please visit: or


Fiona Watt obtained her PhD from Oxford University for studies on microtubule organization. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Howard Green, where she began to study epidermal differentiation. She set up her first lab at the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology in London. Five years later she moved to the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) London Research Institute. Subsequently, she became founding Deputy Director of the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research. In 2012, she was appointed founding Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King's College London.

Fiona Watt's achievements have been recognized by election to EMBO, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society and by numerous awards and named lectureships. In 2013, she was a FEBS National Lecturer at the Annual Meeting of the Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Madrid.


About EMBO

EMBO is an organization of more than 1700 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences. The major goals of the organization are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a European research environment where scientists can achieve their best work.

EMBO helps young scientists to advance their research, promote their international reputations and ensure their mobility. Courses, workshops, conferences and scientific journals disseminate the latest research and offer training in techniques to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice. EMBO helps to shape science and research policy by seeking input and feedback from our community and by following closely the trends in science in Europe. For more information:

About FEBS

The Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) is one of Europe's largest organizations in the molecular life sciences, with over 36,000 members across more than 35 biochemistry and molecular biology societies (its 'Constituent Societies') in different countries of Europe and neighbouring regions. As a grass-roots organization FEBS thereby provides a voice to a large part of the academic research and teaching community in Europe and beyond.

As a charity, FEBS promotes and supports biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, molecular biophysics and related research areas through its journals, Congress, Advanced Courses, Fellowships and other initiatives. There is an emphasis in many programmes on scientific exchange and cooperation between scientists working in different countries, and on promotion of the training of early-career scientists. For more information:

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