Siegfried Hekimi was born in Zürich and obtained his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Geneva. He did not immediately pursue graduate studies but instead engaged in a full-time career as a cyclist (click here to see photos), first as a member of the amateur Swiss National Team and then as a professional in various teams in Switzerland and Italy. He was selected for the World Championships four times and participated in such well known races as the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. After this adventure he completed a PhD in Neurobiology in 1988 with Professor Michael O'Shea, again at the University of Geneva. His thesis focused on the biosynthesis of neuropeptides, which was poorly understood at the time.
It was to tackle this problem that he first developed an interest in using invertebrate models to study evolutionarily conserved processes. This approach led him to study the cardiac bodies of locusts, a pair of endocrine glands almost completely dedicated to the production of the peptidic adipokinetic hormones. He then moved to the famed Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK, to collaborate with Dr J.J. White as a post-doctoral fellow of the Swiss National Science Fund. It is at the LMB that Sydney Brenner developed the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as one of the premier research tools in genetics, and where Hekimi developed his interest for using 'the worm' for translational studies in the biology of aging. It is also in Cambridge that he identified the first mutants that helped to demonstrate that aging could be manipulated genetically and that inducing mild mitochondrial dysfunction could in fact slow down the aging process of animals. After three years in Cambridge, Hekimi joined the Department of Biology at McGill University.
He became a Canadian and remained at McGill where he is a full professor since 2004. He has continued his research on the aging process, extending his reach to include mouse models of aging and of age-dependent diseases, as well as drug discovery through the medium of a spin-off company, Chronogen, which closed in 2007 when its assets were acquired by larger entities. His research at McGill University has been principally funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Canadian Fund for Innovation, and also by the National Science and Engineering Council, by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, industrial partners, and McGill University.
He holds two endowed chairs, the Strathcona Chair of Zoology (since 2004), and the newly created Robert Archibald & Catherine Louise Campbell Chair in Developmental Biology (since 2007). In 2010 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and two years later was awarded the Flavelle Medal of the RSC for outstanding contribution to biological science. Hekimi has published more than 80 highly-cited peer-reviewed publications, has several patent applications, has given over 100 invited lectures and conference presentations, and has supervised 67 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. He is also a popularizer who is regularly interviewed by radio and television broadcasters and the written press to explain the meaning of new findings in the biology of aging, including his own, for human aging and human health.
Recent Invited Lectures and Seminars
Mitochondria, Reactive Oxygen Species, Apoptosis and Longevity. Newcastle Institute for Aging Research, Newcastle, UK, March 2015.
Molecular Mechanisms of Pro-Longevity Mitochondrial ROS Signaling. Department of Medical Genetics. U of Calgary. December 4, 2014.
“Unnatural” relations between ROS, mitochondrial dysfunction, apopotosis and aging in worms and mice. Skin Physiology International Meeting. Vichy, France. December 20, 2014.
Pro-longevity ROS signaling is not hormesis. Symposium international:"The challenges of the biological research in aging in the 21st century. Sherbrooke, November 2014.
A mitochondrial ROS signal promotes longevity in C. elegans by acting through the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Meeting on Molecular Genetics of Aging, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, CSH, New York, October 2014.
Pro-Longevity Mitochondrial ROS Signaling. Bi-annual meeting of the Canadian Oxidative Stress Consortium. Keynote Speaker, Ottawa, June 2014.
Molecular Mechanisms of Pro-Longevity ROS Signaling in the Nematode C. elegans. Invited speaker at the Meeting of the American Aging Association in San Antonio, Texas, June 2014.
Pro-Longevity ROS signaling. International Symposium on Genetics of Aging and Life History. Daegu Institute of Technology (DGIST). Daegu, South Korea, May 2014. Trip sponsored by the Korean Academy of Science and Technology.
Pro-Longevity ROS signaling. Department of Life Sciences Seminar Series.
Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Pohang, South Korea, May 2014.
Controlled Ubiquinone Biosynthesis. Department of Neurobiology Seminar Series, Daegu Institute of Technology (DGIST), DAEGU, South Korea, May 2014.
Reactive oxygen species signal survival through a death pathway. Department of Physiology Seminar Series, University of Toronto, December 2013.
Pro-longevity mitochondrial ROS signaling. FASEB Science Research Conference: Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Dynamics in Health, Disease and Aging. Big Sky, MT, June 2013.
EducationPh.D. in Biology, 1984-1988, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Professional Appointments and Honors1986 - 1988: Teaching assistant in the laboratory of Prof. Michael O'Shea in the Department of Animal Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.
1988 - 1992: Post-doctoral fellow funded by the Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Medical Research Council of Cambridge, England. Advisor J. G. White.
1992 - 1997: Assistant Professor at the Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal.
2002 - to date: Affiliate Member of the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging, Faculty of Medicine.
1997 – 2003: Associate Professor at the Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal.
1999-2004: CIHR Scientist.
Since 2004: Full Professor at the Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal.
Since 2004: Strathcona Chair of Zoology.
Since 2007: Robert Archibald & Catherine Louise Campbell Chair in Developmental Biology.
Since 2010: Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).
2012: Recipient of the Flavelle Medal of the RSC for outstanding contribution to biological science