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Margaret Buckingham
2013 CNRS Gold Medal laureate

The 2013 CNRS Gold Medal has been awarded to the developmental biologist Margaret Buckingham, CNRS emeritus research director and emeritus professor at the Institut Pasteur. The award ceremony was held on the opening day of the CNRS public forum, « Les Fondamentales », on November 14, 2013.

Portrait de Margaret Buckingham

Margaret Buckingham
© CNRS Photothèque / Cyril Fressillon

Margaret Buckingham is a prominent figure in developmental biology research in the field of muscle and heart formation. Her work also touches on stem cells in embryos and adults. She first discovered how the genes of actin and myosin, two proteins essential for muscle contraction, are controlled.

Using genetic manipulations in mice, she then showed that the embryonic cells that will form adult muscles undergo a key step, which irreversibly determines their destiny in muscle differentiation. This takes place well before the cells adopt the characteristics of muscle cells. She later discovered a pair of genes (Pax3/Pax7) whose role is essential in maintaining a population of muscle stem cells in the embryo.

In 2005, she managed with her team to isolate stem cells of the adult skeletal muscle — known as satellite cells — in mice and to demonstrate their potential in muscular regeneration. Finally, in the field of cardiogenesis, she overhauled the commonly accepted vision of cardiac development through the discovery of a second induction field of the heart and by focusing on the clonal origins of heart-forming cell populations.

Margaret Buckingham, a biologist fascinated by development. A film by Marie Chevais © CNRS Images.


Scottish by birth, Margaret Buckingham has dual French-British nationality. Born on March 2, 1945, she graduated from Oxford University (UK) before obtaining her PhD in biology in 1971.

From 1971 to 1974, she completed a postdoc in France at the Institut Pasteur under the supervision of Professor François Gros.

In 1975, she joined the CNRS and set up an autonomous research team. She was appointed CNRS senior researcher in 1981 and professor at the Institut Pasteur in 1992, while continuing her research work at the CNRS.

From 1987 to 2010, she was head of the “Génétique Moléculaire du Développement” laboratory at the Institut Pasteur. She headed the “Biologie Moléculaire” department from 1990 to 1994 and the “Biologie du Développement” department between 2002 and 2006 at the Institut Pasteur.