Miguel L Allende

Miguel Allende received his Bachelor’s in Biology from the Catholic University of Chile in 1987 and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994. At the beginning of his doctoral studies with Dr. Eric Weinberg, he had the opportunity to carry out research stays in the labs of Monte Westerfield and Christianne Nüsslein-Volhard, where he became a convert to the zebrafish as a model. His thesis involved the analysis of transcription factors important for neural and muscle specification, publishing several pioneering papers. At the time, several labs were developing genetic tools in zebrafish and Dr. Allende then joined the lab of Dr. Nancy Hopkins at MIT who was trying to develop insertional as an alternative to chemical mutagenesis. During his postdoc, and together with a dedicated team of co-workers, they were able to use modified retroviruses to efficiently mutagenize genes and to rapidly identify the lesioned loci by reverse PCR cloning. In 1998, Dr. Allende returned to his home country of Chile, where he established the first zebrafish lab in Latin America and started an independent academic position at the Faculty of Science, University of Chile. Since then, he has worked on several topics including neural development, pattern formation, neuronal and axonal regeneration, innate immunity, metal toxicology, host-pathogen models and genomics. His lab has developed several techniques such as a testing method for enhancer activity, a quantitative inflammation assay, electroablation and the generation of chimeras through xenotransplants, using cells of diverse origins, from algae to mammalian pluripotent stem cells. He has published nearly 100 papers, a majority of which involve zebrafish research, with almost 7000 citations and an h index of 40 (Google Scholar). During his 20 years as a professor, he has mentored 75 young scientists, at all stages of their careers, including 13 postdocs and 30 PhD students. Throughout his career, Dr. Allende has continuously succeeded in obtaining funds from competitive sources, both national and international. He has obtained four program project type grants, in all of which he has been in a leadership position. Formerly, he led the Center for Genome Regulation (2011-2022), the predecessor to the Millennium Institute Center for Genome Regulation (2022-2032). At the CGR, he started new research lines in the area of animal genomics, working on different fish species that display unique life histories and adaptations to extreme habitats. Since 2017, Dr. Allende leads the Chilean 1000 Genomes Initiative, which aims to sequence and analyze the genomes of Chilean endemic species and of the Chilean human population. The initiative is an effort by five centers of excellence, working coordinately, to establish a strong and organized community in genome sciences, to recruit new talent to the field and to educate the public on topics such as precision medicine, conservation through genetics, climate change assessment through biodiversity monitoring and crop and livestock improvement using molecular biotechnology. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic (2020-21), Dr. Allende led the CoV2 Genomes Consortium, which assembled the country´s resources in genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis to provide support and expert advice to health authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the distinctions awarded to Dr Allende, he was incorporated into the Chilean Academy of Sciences in 2015. He served on the University of Chile’s Board for Institutional Evaluation as its President and has been chair of the Biology study section of FONDECYT, the Chilean science funding agency. He was President of the Chilean Society for Cell Biology and was a founding member and served on the first Board of the Latin American Zebrafish Network and also of the International Zebrafish Society. He holds an Adjunct Professorship at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) since 2014 and had positions as Visiting Professor at the University of California Davis (USA; 2016-2017) and at the University of Messina (Italy; 2018).

In addition to his research, Dr. Allende is interested in promoting science education by using the zebrafish as an educational tool. He participates in the country’s Portable Labs Program that trains teachers to use materials provided by participating research labs to have children perform experiments in the classroom. The program has expanded to reach dozens of schools in all regions of the country and educators from all over Latin America have come to be trained in its implementation. Within the Chilean 1000 Genomes Inititative, he has organized the “Chile Sequences Chile” program in dozens of high schools acress the country, where students are able to sequence a genome in the classroom and later analyze the results. He is a regular contributor to science news reports and media outlets and has served as advisor on numerous panels and boards of experts for the Chilean parliament and government.