Dr. Achim Werner received his Ph.D. from the International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Biology in Göttingen, Germany. As a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine fellow, Dr. Werner then performed his postdoctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied the role for ubiquitylation enzymes in human embryonic stem cell maintenance and differentiation. By combining mass spectrometry-based approaches with stem cell differentiation assays, biochemical techniques, and ribosome profiling, Dr. Werner’s work has elucidated a novel pathway that regulates the function of newly synthesized ribosomes to allow stem cells to adopt a neural crest cell fate during differentiation. On the basis of these findings, Dr. Werner was awarded an NIH/NIDCR K99 Pathway to Independence Award in 2015. In 2017, Dr. Werner launched his independent research program at NIDCR. His lab combines biochemical and proteomic approaches with human pluripotent stem cell culture, clinical genetics, and human disease cohorts. This integrated approach has allowed his lab to uncover basic principles of how ubiquitylation controls cell-fate decisions during differentiation and how defects in ubiquitylation enzymes results in human diseases such as autoinflammation and developmental disorders. Dr. Werner received tenure at the NIH in November 2023.


Mammalian development relies on the precise execution of highly coordinated cell-fate decisions by stem cells, which can undergo self-renewal, reversibly exit into a quiescent state, or terminally commit to a cell differentiation program. To orchestrate these decisions, stem cells make frequent use of ubiquitylation, an essential post-translational modification that alters the stability, activity, localization, or interaction landscape of target proteins. Our lab leverages the strength of the NIH intramural program, by combining our core expertise in human pluripotent stem cell culture, proteomics, and ubiquitin biochemistry with animal models, clinical genetics, and human disease cohorts. Our work has determined how ubiquitylation controls protein translation, cell division, and migration during differentiation and has uncovered mechanisms by which defects in ubiquitylation enzymes result in congenital diseases of impaired brain and craniofacial development or autoinflammation. We are continuing these studies to elucidate further basic principles of cell-fate specification and to provide insights into the molecular origin of human diseases, which will be useful for developing novel therapeutic approaches.

Research Methods
Human pluripotent stem cells
Human genetics
Research Interests
Neural and neural crest differentiation
Neurodevelopmental and autoinflammatory diseases
Stem cell fate decisions

Current Students

Former Students

Photo of Dr. Werner
NIDCR/NIH 30 Convent Dr. MSC 4340 Bethesda, MD 20892-4340
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
Achim.werner [at] nih.gov