Richard Benton, Professor


Originally from Scotland, Richard Benton received his PhD in 2003 from the University of Cambridge, and was an EMBO/Heley Hay Whitney post-doctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University, New York. He joined the Center for Integrative Genomics in September 2007 as Assistant Professor and promoted to Associate Professor in 2012 and Full Professor in 2018. His group’s research has been recognised by the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology (2009), Friedrich Miescher Award (2012), AChemS Young Investigator Award for Research in Olfaction (2012), National Latsis Prize (2015) and EMBO Gold Medal (2016). His lab has been supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, ERC Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants, EMBO and HFSP.  He was elected EMBO member in 2019 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2021.


Research summary

Our group is interested in the structure, function and evolution of nervous systems. We focus on the olfactory system, which mediates recognition of myriad environmental signals to control diverse behaviours. As a model, we use Drosophila melanogaster, whose nervous system is sophisticated but numerically simple and experimentally highly tractable; many of our projects involve comparative functional approaches with both closely related drosophilid species and more evolutionarily distant invertebrates. We take a multidisciplinary approach, including bioinformatics, genetics, molecular and cellular biology, electrophysiology, optical imaging, and behavioural analysis. Our work provides fundamental insights into how nervous systems develop, operate and change, as well as offering opportunities to devise novel chemical sensors and rational strategies to control the odour-guided behaviours of insect vectors of disease and agricultural pests.

Representative publications

Google Scholar Profile

Álvarez-Ocaña R, Shahandeh MP, Ray V, Auer TO, Gompel N, and Benton R. Odor-regulated oviposition behavior in an ecological specialist. Nature Communications (2023) 14:e3041 doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38722-z
Benton R* and Himmel NJ*. Structural screens identify candidate human homologs of insect chemoreceptors and cryptic Drosophila gustatory receptor-like proteins. eLife (2023) doi:10.7554/eLife.85537

Mika K, Cruchet S, Chai PC, Prieto-Godino LL, Auer TO, Pradervand S and Benton R. Olfactory receptor-dependent receptor repression in Drosophila. Science Advances (2021) 7(32):eabe3745
Prieto-Godino LL*, Silbering AF*, Khallaf  MA**, Cruchet S**, Bojkowska K, Pradervand S, Hansson BS, Knaden M and Benton R. Functional integration of “undead” neurons in the olfactory system. Science Advances (2020) 6(11):eaaz7238
Auer TO, Khallaf MA, Silbering AF, Zappia G, Ellis K, Alvarez-Ocana R, Arguello JR, Hansson BS, Jefferis GSXE, Caron SJC, Knaden M, and Benton R. Olfactory receptor and circuit evolution promote host specialization. Nature (2020) 579(7799):402-408
Chai PC, Cruchet S, Wigger L and Benton R. Sensory neuron lineage mapping and manipulation in the Drosophila olfactory system. Nature Communications (2019) 10:64
Prieto-Godino LL, Rytz R, Cruchet S, Bargeton B, Abuin L, Silbering AF, Ruta V, Dal Peraro M and Benton R. Evolution of acid-sensing olfactory circuits in drosophilids. Neuron (2017) 93(3):661-676
Prieto-Godino LL, Rytz R, Bargeton B, Abuin L, Arguello JR, Dal Peraro M and Benton R. Olfactory receptor pseudo-pseudogenes. Nature (2016) 539(7627):93-97
Ramdya P, Lichocki P, Cruchet S, Frisch L, Tse W, Floreano D and Benton R. Mechanosensory Interactions Drive Collective Behaviour in Drosophila. Nature (2015) 519(7542):233-6


richard_benton-8889_edit.jpg (Richard Benton)

Richard Benton FRS

Tel: +41 21 692 3932


How to apply
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Administrative assistant

Lise Rolée
Tel: +41 21 692 3900