I was born in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) before moving to Belgium for primary and secondary school. I completed my first degree in engineering and applied physics from the University of Louvain (Belgium). I then obtained a Fulbright fellowship for postgraduate studies in Biophysics at the University of California Berkeley (M.A and Ph.D.) My thesis with John Gerhart and George Oster showed that the dorso-ventral axis of frog embryos is specified by the so-called subcortical rotation in the egg. From Berkeley, I moved to the University of California San Francisco for postdoctoral training with Patrick O’Farrell (as a Damon Runyon fellow). There, in collaboration with Tim Mitchison, I devised the first cell lineage tracer based on caged dye technology. In 1993, I established my research group at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (UK) where I developed an interest in epithelial patterning. I then moved to the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill in 1997. There, I started a research programme on how trafficking and other cell biological mechanisms modulate the activity of Wingless, a signaling molecule of the Wnt family. Currently, I am also exploring how Wingless and other signals controls patterning and growth. Another area of active research concerns the signals that trigger apoptosis in response to epithelial disruption or cell fate mis-specification.
I am proud to be a member of EMBO, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2001, I co-founded VastOX, now Summit PLC.
I play field hockey and tennis and (too rarely) go hiking and backcountry skiing. I also love to cook and enjoy the theatre.