SKI’s Developmental Biology Program is one of the most well-regarded and innovative programs of its type in the world, with a rich history of major contributions to the field. Our scientists study the mechanisms that control development from the single cell of the egg to the adult animal. They employ a variety of experimental tools, including genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry, as well as model systems, in order to address complex questions of pattern formation, organogenesis, and morphogenesis in the context of the whole animal. They are leaders in the study of both invertebrate and mammalian development. Several of our faculty participate in the Center for Stem Cell Biology at MSK, which is developing innovative therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

Scientists in the program focus on several different areas, including:

  • Developmental Genetics
  • Patterning of Tissues and Organs
  • Intercellular Signaling in Development and Cancer
  • Stem Cells


A developing worm embryo. Courtesy Zhirong Bao Lab.
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Our Faculty

  • Anna-Katerina Hadjantonakis, PhD
    Chair, Developmental Biology Program
    Developmental Biology Program Chair Anna-Katerina Hadjantonakis studies pluripotency, cell lineage commitment, tissue patterning, and morphogenesis in mammalian embryos and in vitro stem cell models.
  • Kathryn V. Anderson, PhD
    Developmental biologist Kathryn Anderson studies genetic pathways that direct embryonic patterning and morphogenesis in the mouse embryo.
  • Zhirong Bao, PhD
    Developmental biologist Zhirong Bao investigates how the genome dictates development using C. elegans as a model.
  • Mary Baylies, PhD
    Developmental biologist Mary Baylies studies the mechanisms that form and maintain muscle both during normal development and in disease.
  • Danwei Huangfu, PhD
    Developmental biologist Danwei Huangfu uses human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) as a powerful genetic model to interrogate the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms underlying cell fate decisions in development and disease.
  • Maria Jasin, PhD
    Molecular biologist Maria Jasin focuses on double-strand break repair and genomic integrity in mammalian cells and the relationship to tumor suppression.
  • Alexandra Joyner, PhD
    Developmental biologist Alexandra Joyner studies the involvement of Hedgehog signaling and transcription factors in cerebellum development, regeneration and cancer.
  • Elizabeth H. Lacy, PhD
    Developmental biologist Elizabeth Lacy studies the mechanisms of gastrulation and organogenesis during mouse development.
  • Eric C. Lai, PhD
    Developmental biologist Eric Lai integrates genetics, biochemistry, and genomewide approaches to study diverse regulatory networks during patterning and behavior.
  • Songhai Shi, PhD
    Developmental neurobiologist Songhai Shi investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying mammalian neuronal development and circuit formation.
  • Lorenz Studer, MD
    Developmental biologist Lorenz Studer investigates human stem cells as tools to understand normal and pathological development in the nervous system and to develop cell-based strategies for regenerative medicine.
  • Thomas S. Vierbuchen, PhD
    Developmental biologist Thomas Vierbuchen directs the differentiation of mouse and human pluripotent stem cells to characterize fundamental mechanisms of neuronal cell fate specification and function.
  • Jennifer A. Zallen, PhD
    Developmental biologist Jennifer Zallen focuses on the generation of tissue structure through the collective action of cell populations.


  • Peter Besmer, PhD
    Developmental biologist Peter Besmer focuses on normal and oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in vitro and in vivo in mice.

Collaborations & Resources

SKI offers a wide array of core facilities and other technologies, as well as significant opportunity for collaboration. Members of the Developmental Biology Program derive particular benefit from close ties to the following:

Join Our Program
We seek out innovative new scientists to join our faculty on an annual basis. Recruitment begins in the fall. Postdocs and other prospective lab members can learn more by browsing the lab pages of individual PIs or by visiting our Careers website.
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