Phone: +41 44 633 36 88
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 SystemsX.ch. 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 (DatenundGesundheit.ch) 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.
The development from a single fertilized egg cell to a fully grown organism is controlled by the genome. In spite of the remarkable similarity of gene number and gene sequences between species as different as flies, mice, and humans, these species differ greatly in their body plan, shapes, and sizes. We want to understand the genetic control of development and how diversity is generated. By making use of the powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila, we have been identifying genes that control developmental processes such as the specification photoreceptor cell fate or the control of cell and body size. While genetics permits identification of key genes in a developmental process, it is more difficult to obtain all the components of an entire cellular network. At the Institute of Molecular Systems Biology we team up with experts in proteomics to complete our genetic networks and with modeling specialists to obtain a more complete understanding of development and diversity.
Biology as a discipline as been changing rapidly from a largely descriptive discipline at the beginning of the 20ties century to a molecular science in which basic concept of evolution and cellular biology have been uncovered towards the end of the 20ies century. Presently biology is undergoing another revolution from a largely qualitative to a increasingly quantitative discipline that relies on methods from physics, mathematics and computer science. This new biological understanding affects society as a whole since it triggers changes in how we view health, disease, nutrition, agriculture and the environment. These changes pose specific challenges on teaching biology. Curricula have to be constantly adapted to new concepts and technologies that dramatically change not only science but also society. For example, ten years ago sequencing the human genome cost $ 100 Mio, today the costs are close to $ 1000. DNA sequencing is becoming a universal diagnostic tool and is already used for stratifying cancer patients and to determine Down's syndrome in fetuses. In addition to participating in teaching of undergraduates, graduate students and prospective biology teachers we have embarked on a project in Discipline Based Education Research in biology. We are part of the ETH Doctoral Program in Education Research and study how high school and university students understand basic concepts in biology.
Diese Website wird in älteren Versionen von Netscape ohne graphische Elemente dargestellt. Die Funktionalität der Website ist aber trotzdem gewährleistet. Wenn Sie diese Website regelmässig benutzen, empfehlen wir Ihnen, auf Ihrem Computer einen aktuellen Browser zu installieren. Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf
The content in this site is accessible to any browser or Internet device, however, some graphics will display correctly only in the newer versions of Netscape. To get the most out of our site we suggest you upgrade to a newer browser.