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Department of Genetics



Erik is a junior group leader in the Department of Genetics, where he leads the Embryo Patterning group. He originally moved to Cambridge in 2012, and spent several years in the Department of Zoology, first as a PhD student in the lab of Michael Akam, and later as a Junior Research Fellow. After a couple of years as an EMBO postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Angela DePace at Harvard Medical School, he returned to Cambridge and joined the Department of Genetics. He has a PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, a MSc in Bioinformatics and Theoretical Systems Biology from Imperial College London, and a BA in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford. He set up his group in 2023, supported by a Wellcome Trust Career Development Award.

Research Interests

I am interested in developmental patterning systems: the collections of regulatory rules, biophysical processes, and specific conditions that enable multicellular animals to reproduce their own complex organisation each generation, starting from only a single, fertilised egg. I want to understand how and why these systems work, and how and why they have evolved; in my view, these developmental and evolutionary questions are so intrinsically linked that they are best investigated simultaneously.

I am particularly interested in the processes that generate anteroposterior (head-tail) patterning in bilaterian animals: axis generation, axis maturation, axis regionalisation, and axis segmentation.

1. What are the structures of the gene regulatory networks involved in these processes?

2. How can we explain their spatiotemporal dynamics in developing embryos?

3. Why do we see specific patterns of conservation and divergence in development across the animal family tree?

My lab investigates these questions using a combination of quantitative imaging, genetic perturbations, and computational simulations (“microscopy, mutants, and modelling”), using the relatively simple and tractable Drosophila (fruit fly) embryo as our main model system. The work in Drosophila is informed by a broad, comparative perspective, and in future years we will additionally carry out projects using more widely representative bilaterian embryos, such as those of beetles and fish. For more details, see our lab webpage.

I also have a general interest in the history and philosophy of biology, especially in how prevailing concepts and theories have developed over time.

Key Publications

Clark E, Battistara M, Benton MA (2022) A timer gene network is spatially regulated by the terminal system in the Drosophila embryo. eLife 11:e78902.

Clark E, Peel AD and Akam M (2019) Arthropod segmentation. Development 146:dev170480.

Clark E (2017) Dynamic patterning by the Drosophila pair-rule network reconciles long-germ and short-germ segmentation. PLoS Biology 15:e2002439.

Clark E and Akam M (2016) Odd-paired controls frequency doubling in Drosophila segmentation by altering the pair-rule gene regulatory network. eLife 5:e18215.


>> Full list of publications on Google Scholar

Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow
Areas of Interest: 
Developmental patterning systems and their evolution
Email address: 
Department of Genetics
Downing Street
Takes PhD students