Professor Wolf Reik FRS appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute

Professor Wolf Reik FRS appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute

Professor Wolf Reik FRS appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute

Key points:

  • Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed the Institute’s Acting Director following the tragic death of Professor Michael Wakelam on 31st March 2020.
  • Professor Reik has been the Head of the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme since 2008 and the Institute’s Associate Director since 2004.
  • He is recognised globally as a leader in the epigenetics field.

Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed the Institute’s Acting Director with immediate effect, following the sad loss of Professor Michael Wakelam at the end of March. Professor Reik is an internationally renowned expert in the field of epigenetics and has led the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme since 2008. He has been the Institute’s Associate Director since 2004.

Professor Peter Rigby, FRS, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, said: “I am delighted to announce that the Institute Board has appointed Professor Wolf Reik FRS as the Acting Director of the Babraham Institute. Professor Reik is a world-class scientist, internationally renowned for his work in epigenetics, who has been at the Institute for over 30 years. The BBSRC fully support the Board's appointment, which will ensure the Institute continues to be strongly led, building on the excellent work of Professor Michael Wakelam. I know that Wolf will provide much needed leadership and stability during the uncertain times that we all face.”

Professor Reik commented: “I am really honoured by this appointment; I look forward to working with everyone at the Institute, the Campus and with BBSRC. After Michael’s sad death, my primary aim is to bring us back to our labs in a safe and considerate fashion, and to jointly tackle the opportunities and challenges for the science of the Institute going forward strongly into the future.”

Professor Reik’s research centres on understanding the role of epigenetics (non-sequence altering modifications to DNA or chromatin that regulate gene expression) in establishing cell fate and identity during mammalian development and also the process of epigenetic reprogramming. The research interests of his lab span understanding the epigenetic processes governing the earliest steps of development, how pluripotency is maintained in stem cells and conversely how cell identity is established during differentiation. More recently the lab is interested in how the epigenome degrades during ageing, and whether there are ways of reversing this decay. They have developed new technologies for single cell ‘multi-omics’ sequencing which allows unprecedented insights into cell fate changes during development or ageing. Professor Reik enjoys collaborating with scientists in the Institute and outside, and leads a Wellcome-funded consortium that studies cell fate decisions during mouse gastrulation and organ development.

Professor Reik is honorary Professor of Epigenetics and Affiliate Faculty at the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge and Associate Faculty at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. He is a member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea (elected in 2003 and 2011, respectively), and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2003) and of the Royal Society (2010). Professor Reik has been a member of funding committees of several of the UK’s key research funders such as UKRI-Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and Wellcome Trust. 

Professor Reik obtained his MD from the University of Hamburg in 1985. He undertook his thesis work with Rudolf Jaenisch in Hamburg, followed by postdoctoral work with Azim Surani at the Institute of Animal Physiology, now the Babraham Institute. During this time, he became a Fellow of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine which provided funding to start his own independent research group (in 1987).


Notes to Editors

Press contact

Dr Louisa Wood, Institute Communications Manager,

Image description

Professor Wolf Reik. Main image courtesy of Keith Heppell and the Cambridge Independent.

Additional/related resources:

News: 21st April 2020 Memories of Michael: a colleague’s tribute

News: 1st April 2020: Michael Wakelam 1955-2020

News: 31st March 2020: Professor Wolf Reik receives an ERC Advanced Grant to study crucial developmental process

News: 11th December 2019: Single-cell analysis of the earliest cell fate decisions in development

News: 14 August 2019: Pinpointing the molecular mechanisms of ageing

News: 25th July 2019: Human Developmental Biology Initiative announced

Leaving an Imprint: a profile of Wolf Reik in The Scientist (31 July 2015)

Hear Wolf explain his research at a Karolinska Research Lecture at the Nobel Forum (from 2014)

Wolf Reik: elucidating epigenetics in early mammalian embryos. Nature Reports Stem Cells 2009

About the Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.