Manuel Leonetti

Group Leader, Cell Atlas


How did you become interested in science?

One of my early fascinations came with the discovery that the physical world has a level of structure, down at the microscopic scale, that is incredibly beautiful and complex. That is what sparked my interest in cell biology: cells are made by millions of molecular components that somehow assemble into a precise architecture. Understanding how this architecture is generated and maintained is captivating to me.

What was your educational path?

I grew up in a quiet town in Southern France but was always attracted by the energy of big cities. I went to Paris after high school to attend a college with a strong research component, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and my Master’s degree in Life Sciences. I discovered New York City through an internship during my Master’s and had a fantastic time – I moved there for my Ph.D. at the Rockefeller University in Rod MacKinnon’s lab. During that time I became familiar with San Francisco and the vibrancy of biomedical research in the Bay Area. I joined UCSF for a post-doctoral fellowship in Jonathan Weissman’s group, before coming to the Biohub.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I love to travel and I am amazed by the diversity of cultures and landscapes around the world. A great aspect of traveling is also discovering and trying new foods! Plus, eating a very social activity and a great way to meet and interact with people. I like Southeast Asia, where I have traveled a few times. I also really enjoy the Bay Area! Between the redwoods, the coast and the Sierras there are so many diverse and amazing places to visit.

What brought you to CZ Biohub?

The collaborative vision that Joe and Steve put forward: the insight that none of us alone can be smarter than all of us together. At Biohub biologists, engineers and computer scientists are working side-by-side and brainstorming together. Mixing technology, engineering and medicine together is powerful way to make discoveries.

Educational Background

  • B.Sc. – École Normale Supérieure & University of Paris
  • M.Sc. – École Normale Supérieure & University of Paris
    Interdisciplinary Life Sciences
  • Ph.D. – The Rockefeller University
    Biology; Studying the structure and function of ion channels.
  • Post-doc – UCSF
    Developing tools to manipulate proteins and understand how a cell is internally organized.