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Thomas Biederer

Thomas Biederer

Principal Investigator
Tufts University School of Medicine
Department of Neuroscience

36 Harrison Avenue
Office: Arnold 207
Boston, Massachusetts 02111

Phone: 617-636-2131
Connect: LinkedIn / ResearchGate / Google Scholar / PublonsPubMed

Short Biography

Thomas Biederer received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. Thomas then earned a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for his studies of membrane protein quality control in the secretory pathway with Dr. Thomas Sommer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin. Combining his deep-seated interests in neuroscience and membrane biology, Thomas pursued postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas Südhof. At UT Southwestern, Thomas investigated mechanisms of synapse formation and the roles of synaptic adhesion molecules, and he characterized the first synaptogenic proteins of the immunoglobulin superfamily in the vertebrate brain. He became faculty member at Yale University in 2003, and joined in 2013 the Tufts University Medical School, where he is Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Thomas also leads the Neuroscience graduate program at Tufts.

Thomas is intrigued by synapse biology. His long-term goal is to understand synapse development, from molecular to in vivo levels. His entry point to study these questions are the adhesion molecules spanning the synaptic cleft, protein complexes that his group has helped to identify and characterize. On a molecular and cell biological level, research in his group has revealed that interactions by SynCAM immunoglobulin proteins across the cleft can successively function during axo-dendritic contact and synapse formation, and later shape synapses. His group has in addition demonstrated that SynCAMs have signaling roles. Pursuing long-standing interests in molecular approaches, his laboratory also has performed the first localization of adhesive cleft complexes on a nanoscale. The Biederer group extends this program to investigate synapse-organizing mechanisms in vivo. In fact, most lab member combine molecular and in vivo approaches in their research, which offers the opportunity to approach related questions from very different angles. This progress has led to the recognition that trans-synaptic SynCAM complexes are both necessary and sufficient to drive synapse development in the brain. His laboratory has additionally demonstrated that proteins spanning the synaptic cleft can modulate synaptic plasticity. Among the most recent progress of his group are the results that SynCAM molecules organize the formation of excitatory synapses onto interneurons and control network maturation in the cortex. Our next aims are to define the mechanisms that instruct synapse formation using innovative approaches such as superresolution imaging of sub-synaptic protein distribution, single particle tracking of synapse-organizing molecules to measure their surface dynamics in live neurons, and proteomic studies of synapse composition. A group of truly outstanding collaborators works with his group to reach these goals together. His laboratory also applies these research capabilities to identify nutritional interventions that promote circuit wiring and synapse stability. Attaining these goals is of importance to human health as altered synapse formation, maturation, and maintenance underlie neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, and synaptic aberrations are linked to drugs of abuse.

Curriculum Vitae

Academic Positions & Affiliations

Tufts University School of Medicine
Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program, 2016 – Present

Tufts University School of Medicine
Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, 2013 – Present

Yale University
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, 2009 – 2013

Yale School of Medicine
Member, Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair, 2005 – 2013

Yale University
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, 2003 –  2009

Research Experience

UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
Postdoctoral Fellow with Thomas C. Südhof, 1999-2003
Topic: Synapse formation and organization in the vertebrate central nervous system

Max-Delbrück-Centrum, Berlin
Research Fellow with Thomas Sommer, 1998
Topic: Functions of the ubiquitin/proteasome system at the endoplasmic reticulum of S. cerevisiae

Max-Delbrück-Centrum, Berlin
Graduate Student with Thomas Sommer, 1995-1997
Topic: Characterization of the ubiquitin system at the endoplasmic reticulum of S. cerevisiae


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Ph.D. in Biology with specialization in Cell Biology, 1998, summa cum laude

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Diploma in Biochemistry, 1995

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Study of Biochemistry, 1991-1994

Universität Regensburg, Germany
Study of Biochemistry, 1989-1991

Honors and Awards

Brain Research Foundation
Brain Research Foundation Fellow, 2016

University of Bordeaux
Initiative d’Excellence Award, 2016

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (Formerly NARSAD)
Young Investigator Award, 2009

Dana Foundation
Program in Brain and Immuno-Imaging Scholar Award, 2009

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Nominee for Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE), 2006

March of Dimes Foundation
Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award, 2005

The Brain Tumor Society
Paul Daniel Bogart Leadership Chair of Research Award, 2004

Human Frontier Science Program
Long-term Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1999 – 2001

German Society for Cell Biology
Boehringer-Mannheim Prize for Young Scientists, 1998

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (“German National Merit Foundation”)
Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes Scholarship, 1990 – 1994

Bayerische Hochbegabtenförderung (“Bavarian Bursary for Gifted Students”)
Bayerische Hochbegabtenförderung Scholarship, 1989-1994


For a list of all published papers, please visit our Publications page.

Professional Services

Tufts University Teaching
Biochemical Foundations in Neuroscience  NRSC 251, since 2014
Synapse Neurobiology, NRSC 213, since 2014
Cell & Molecular Tutorials in Neuroscience, NRSC 200, since 2016

Manuscript Review
Cell, Science, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, eLife, PNAS, Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Nature Communications, EMBO Journal, Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Structure, Journal of Physiology, Journal of Comparative Neurology, Developmental Neurobiology, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, European Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Neurochemistry, Neuroscience Letters, Cerebral Cortex, FEBS Letters, PLoS One, Human Molecular Genetics, Biological Psychiatry, Trends in Neurosciences, Trends in Molecular Medicine, Frontiers in Bioscience and Springer Publishing Group.

Federal Grant Review
ad hoc reviewer NIH Study Section SYN Synapses, Cytoskeleton, Trafficking
ad hoc reviewer NIH Fellowship Study Section Neurodevelopment, Synaptic Plasticity, and Neurodegeneration
ad hoc reviewer NIH Special Emphasis Panel MDCN Complex Brain Disorders
ad hoc reviewer for National Science Foundation

Other Grant Review
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), MRC, Swiss, National Science Foundation, French National Research Agency, Dutch Research Council, Research Grant Council of Hong Kong, Alzheimer’s Association, Carman Trust, Jeffress Trust.


Methods for modulating transcriptional activation using Mint proteins
Inventors: Thomas C. Südhof, Thomas Biederer, Xinran Liu
Date of Issue: March, 2001
U.S. Patent Application 09/821,861

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