Prof. Dr. Ernst Hafen

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Ernst Hafen


ETH Zurich

Inst. f. Molekulare Systembiologie

Prof. Dr. Ernst Hafen

Head of BSc Biologie / Head of MSc Biologie / Deputy head of Institute for Molecular Systems Biology

HPT E 72

Auguste-Piccard-Hof 1

8093 Zürich


  • phone +41 44 633 36 88 
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Ernst Hafen obtained his PhD from the Biocenter at the University of Basel in 1983. From 1984 to 1986 he worked at the University of California in Berkeley as a postdoctoral fellow before joining the University of Zurich as an assistant professor in 1987. He was promoted to full professor in 1997. From 2005 to 2006 he served as president of ETH Zurich. Since 2005 he holds a professorship at the Institute of Molecular Systems Biology at ETH Zurich.

Ernst Hafen has made several seminal contributions to the field of developmental biology and cell biology including the characterization of genes and the corresponding signaling pathways involved in cell fate specification and in the control of cell and body size. He has received several prizes and has served on the Editorial Boards of various journals and scientific committees. He is a co-founder of evalueSCIENCE, a privately held consulting company that offers reviews and second opinions on R&D projects by a standardized peer review process to life science companies, academic institutions and investors.

In 2008 he initiated the multidisciplinary systems biology project WingX - The Systems Biology of the Drosophila Wing. This project is funded by the Systems Biology Initiative Researcher from biology, physics, engineering and computer science form ETH, EPFL, and the Universities of Zürich, Basel and Lausanne collaborate towards a predictive computer model of the development of the Drosophila wing, an simple and well understood structure.

As a trained geneticist he has a strong interest in human genetics and personalized medicine. He posits that an individual’s control over his or her personal health data will be a key asset for better and more effective health care. In 2012 he acted as a founding member of the Association Data and Health ( whose aim it is to discuss legal, ethical and societal issues about health data ownership and to find commercial models permitting owners not third parties to benefit from their personal data assets.

Ernst Hafen serves as the president of the Biotechnopark Zürich-Schlieren. He seeks and supports more efficient ways of translating scientific discoveries into products. In 2009 he initiated together with colleagues from the Leiden Medical Center and Oxford University the EU Regions of Knowledge Project Health Technology and Economic Success (HealthTIES). The aim of this project is to analyze and coordinate the innovation cycle from basic scientific discovery in biomedical research to products on the market via the technology transfer and industry partnering process. He participated in developing novel assessment instruments to measure productivity and efficiency of the different regions in Reasearch, Tochnology Transfer and Industry Output.

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