Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I graduated in 1973 with a First Class Honours in Zoology from the University of Manchester, UK, and later received a Ph.D., (1976) and subsequently a D.Sc., (1990) for my contribution to the understanding of basic processes in fertilization and early embryology. In 1998 I was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Biology and in 2010 I was nominated as Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in London, UK. I have published over 150 papers in international peer reviewed journals and nine books on the topic.
What led you to become Editor in Chief of Zygote?
My experience comes from studying gametes and embryos from a wide range of species including invertebrates, vertebrates, mammals and the human. My specialization is membrane physiology, and in 1983 I identified a soluble factor in spermatozoa that is responsible for the activation and development of oocytes.
Can you tell us about the origin of the journal?
In the early 1990s there was need for a new journal dedicated to studies of fertilization and early development, with a multidisciplinary approach, that would cover the animal and plant kingdoms. Cambridge University Press had recently acquired rights to a book I had written, which was produced by the Institute of Biology as part of its 'Studies in Biology' series in 1983 –“Fertilization in Animals” Studies in Biology Series by Edward Arnold. I contacted Chris Fell who was head of scientific journals at the time and we decided to launch a new journal – Zygote.
The scope of the journal covers developmental genetics; where does Zygote sit in this broad and controversial field of research?
Early development is mainly about expressing gene products that have been laid down during gametogenesis and therefore Zygote is more suited to physiological and biochemical phenomena and epigenetics rather than to genetics. We are trying to attract more papers on epigenetics, using the expertise of one of our editors, Yves Menezo, and in fact one of our joint papers, DNA damage and repair in human oocytes and embryos: a review, Menezo, Dale, Cohen, published in Zygote in 2010 has attracted much attention.
In terms of the research you publish, what are you on the lookout for and what would attract authors to want to publish in Zygote?
Prospective scientific authors should be attracted to Zygote since it is the only journal dedicated to fertilization and early development and thus occupies a very specific niche. Since it covers the animal and plant kingdoms and aims to identify basic ubiquitous biological mechanisms it is of prime interest to biologists.
Which Zygote paper for you has been the most significant, or is simply your favourite?
A paper from the Avanguardia human fertility unit at Hammersmith hospital run by Lord Robert Winston and Alan Handyside:Transcription of paternal Y-linked genes in the human zygote as early as the pronuclear stage. Ao, Erikson, Winston and Handyside (2008), which revealed that some paternal genes were expressed as early as the Zygote stage in the human embryo. A truly novel finding of great importance to reproductive medicine.