Guests Fascinated by Science at First Lecture in Series Hosted by Max Planck Florida Institute

January 20, 2011

More than 200 guests filled the Royal Poinciana Fellowship Hall on January 12 for a lecture by Dr. Axel Borst, director of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany. His presentation was the first in a series of three public lectures this winter, presented by the Max Planck Florida Institute and sponsored by the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

Titled, “From the Cockpit of a Fly: How Visual Motion Information is Processed,” Dr. Borst captivated the audience by discussing the ways scientists are working toward unlocking the mysteries of the human brain by studying a much smaller-scale brain – of the fly. Whenever a seeing organism moves through the environment, it creates, through its own movement, a shift of the images of the environment on its retina. Dr. Borst explained how motion information from the changing retinal images is computed in the fly visual system and how this information is decoded for navigation. The same basic principles of processing visual information are found in the human brain. As a technical application, Dr. Borst presented Robofly: he had his team implement circuits as found in the brain onboard a miniature airborne robot.

Following the lecture, Dr. Borst took questions from the audience and then was joined by Dr. Stefan Schwabe, COO of the pharmaceutical company, DemeRX, Inc. and patent attorney Michael J. Keller of McDermott Will & Emery LLP for a panel discussion, “From Bench to Bedside: Translating Science into Health.” The panelists shared with the audience how scientific innovations in the lab eventually can become the basis for research that leads to treatments and therapies for diseases, and the role patents and licensing play in bringing such discoveries to consumers.

The event concluded with a private reception at Sea Gull Cottage.

Notable guests at the lecture included George Elmore; Howard and Patricia Lester; Alexander Bondar; Michael Mitrione; Dr. Gary Perry; German Deputy Consul General Mechtild Ewert; Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick; and Frank Folz.

Dr. Borst also gave a presentation at the Spanish River High School in Boca Raton earlier that afternoon. The following evening, he presented for an audience in New York City at the German House organized by the German Center for Research and Innovation.

The Max Planck Florida Institute lecture series will continue on February 23 when Dr. Martin Heimann, director of the Max Planck Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, leads a discussion on climate change. Dr. Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, founding director and director of the department of immunology at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, will conclude the series on March 30 with a presentation on the threat of plagues.

The Max Planck Florida Institute lecture series is free and open to the public. All lectures will be held in the Fellowship Hall at the Royal Poinciana Chapel, 60 Cocoanut Row in Palm Beach. Seating is limited and can be reserved by calling 561.972.9007 or rsvp at
About the Max Planck Society:

Germany’s Max Planck Society has led the world in advancing the frontiers of scientific research for more than 60 years. The independent, nonprofit organization, with its international staff of around 20,400, including research fellows and visiting scientists, has an annual operating budget of $1.8 billion. Named for the 1918 Nobel Prize-winning physicist and founder of the quantum theory, Max Planck, the scientific institution maintains 80 institutes and research facilities located mainly in Germany, but also in Italy, Netherlands, and now in the United States. All are focused on exceptional, results-oriented basic research in the life sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

The Max Planck Florida Institute, which focuses its research on the nervous system and other complex tissues, is currently operating in a temporary facility on Florida Atlantic University’s MacArthur Campus in Jupiter. The permanent 100,000-square-foot biomedical research center and laboratories is expected to be completed by early 2012. For more information, visit

About McDermott Will & Emery:

McDermott Will & Emery is a premier international law firm with a diversified business practice. Numbering more than 1,000 lawyers, we have offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Orange County, Rome, San Diego, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. Extending our reach to Asia, we have a strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.