James Sharpe

Centre de Regulació Genòmica (CRG)

Life & Medical Sciences

1997: PhD MRC National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, London (UK). "Cis-regulatory mechanisms of the Hox genes in mouse development". Lab of Dr. Robb Krumlauf.

1997-1998: Postdoc on Xenopus development, University of Chile.

1998: MRC Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh. Postdoc on computational approaches to study mouse limb development.

2001: Development of a 3D optical imaging technique and introduction of the term "Optical Projection Tomography", commercialised under the name Bioptonics.

2003: Group Leader in Edinburgh. 2006: Senior Group Leader at the Centre de Regulació Genòmica, Barcelona (Spain).

2011: Acting Coordinator of the EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Program.

2014: Coordinator of the EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Program.

Research interests

The physical complexity of a human being, or even a single organ, is truly astounding. The goal of my lab is to understand how the activities of gene networks controls the millions of cells which make up our organs – allowing them to communicate with each other, to decide what to do at each moment during embryo development: whether to divide, which way to move, and which cells types to become (cartilage, bone, connective tissue, etc.) We believe this will only be achieved by integrating information into a computer model, and to this end we are developing new imaging and computational methods to understand one example of organogenesis – vertebrate limb development. We combine various systems biology approaches to integrate data on cell activities and gene networks into a realistic 4D computer simulation of the process. This is a truly interdisciplinary endeavour, and the lab is therefore composed of physicists, engineers and computer scientists as well as biologists.

Selected publications

– Martinez-Abadias N, Mateu R, Niksic M, Russo L & Sharpe J 2016, ‘Geometric Morphometrics on Gene Expression Patterns Within Phenotypes: A Case Example on Limb Development’, Systematic Biology, 65, 2, 194 – 211.

– Abe J, Ozga AJ, Swoger J, Sharpe J, Ripoll J & Stein JV 2016, ‘Light sheet fluorescence microscopy for in situ cell interaction analysis in mouse lymph nodes’, Journal Of Immunological Methods, 431, 1 – 10.

– Onimaru K, Marcon L, Musy M, Tanaka M & Sharpe J 2016, ‘The fin-to-limb transition as the re-organization of a Turing pattern’, Nature Communications, 7, 11582.

– Marcon L, Diego X, Sharpe J & Mueller P 2016, ‘High-throughput mathematical analysis identifies Turing networks for patterning with equally diffusing signals’, Elife, 5, e14022.

Selected research activities

In addition to giving many invited seminars and presentations at international conferences and institutes, a major activity was co-organising this year’s ICSB (International Conference on Systems Biology), with my great colleague from the UPF (universitat Pompeu Fabra) Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo.

A particular highlight was that I organised and chaired an open discussion entitled “Biohacking the Planet” which focused on projects whose goals are to release genetically-altered organisms into the environment with the explicit goal of having an impact on the environment. We had 4 eminent speakers discussing both the sceince and the ethics of projects such as using CRISPR-based gene-drive to /control mosquito populations, and synthtic biology to terraform destroyed habitats.