Coordinator, Human Brain Project, The Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

Henry Markram is a professor of neuroscience at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). He is the founder of the Brain Mind Institute, founder and director of the Blue Brain Project, and the coordinator of the ambitious Human Brain Project, which aims to construct a computerized simulation of the human brain. The HBP was selected in January 2013 to be one of the European Commission’s Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships, with a grant of more than €1 billion over the next ten years. The initiative involves researchers in 80 institutions across Europe – from biologists, neurobiologists and biochemists to computer scientists and engineers. Markram believes that the HBP may lead not only to a paradigm shift in our understanding of the brain and its illnesses, but that it could also provide new, innovative concepts for designing computers and robots. Markram also aims for the Human Brain Project to spur a new approach to mental health globally.

After earning his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with distinction, the South-African-born Markram was a Fulbright scholar at the US National Institutes of Health, and a Minerva Fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research. In 1995 he returned to the Weizmann Institute, becoming an Associate Professor in 2000. Since 2002, he has been at the EPFL and has spearheaded Switzerland’s ambition to become a world leader in high performance computing and to prioritize simulation-based research; these fields are now two of the three national research priorities declared by the Swiss government. In 2005 he launched the Blue Brain Project, which in 2008 produced a first draft simulation of a rodent brain neocortical column generated on a supercomputer. This simulation gave proof of concept – and a source of new challenges. It highlighted the incredible scientific potential of a complete model of a human brain, but it also indicated that this undertaking would need to be immense – on par with the huge LHC project at CERN.

A frequent speaker in scientific, corporate and political fora including the 2012 g20 meeting in Mexico, Shimon Peres’ 90th Birthday Conference, the WIPO General Assembly in 2013, and the 2010, 2011 and 2012 annual meetings of the WEF, Henry Markram talks about one of 21st-century science’s most complex and important challenges. His 2009 TED talk – provocatively entitled “A Brain in a Supercomputer” – has registered more than half a million views.


Markram’s published work includes more than one hundred papers receiving over 15’000 citations. Also active in the field of academic publishing, he and Kamila Markram founded Frontiers (frontiersin.org), a community-driven open-access academic publisher and research network. Frontiers drives innovations and new technologies around publishing, social networking for researchers, and a whole ecosystem of open science tools and has become one of the largest and fastest-growing open-access publishers. Frontiers recently joined the Nature Publishing Group.