Professor Wolf Reik, FRS, FMedSci Appointed Director of the Babraham Institute

Professor Wolf Reik, FRS, FMedSci Appointed Director of the Babraham Institute

Professor Wolf Reik, FRS, FMedSci Appointed Director of the Babraham Institute

The Board of Trustee Directors is delighted to announce that, following an open and international search, Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed as the Institute’s Director. Professor Reik has held the position of Acting Director since May 2020 following the tragic death of Professor Michael Wakelam.

Professor Reik is an internationally renowned expert in the field of epigenetics who has led the Institute’s research programme in this area since 2008.

Professor Peter Rigby FRS, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, said:

I am very pleased indeed that Professor Reik has agreed to become Director of the Institute. He is a world-class scientist, internationally renowned for his work in epigenetics, who has been at the Institute for over 30 years. I know that he will provide the essential leadership and stability that will be required during the uncertain times that we all face and will guide the Institute forward to continued success in every aspect of its mission.

Speaking on behalf of the Institute’s strategic funder, Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), a part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), commented:

On behalf of BBSRC, I am pleased to congratulate Professor Reik on his appointment as the permanent Director of the Babraham Institute. He is a remarkable and highly-respected scientist and is particularly well qualified to guide the Institute’s world-class life sciences research.

Professor Reik discovered the key molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting and of epigenetic reprogramming, and his research focuses on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms governing mammalian development and ageing. The establishment and maintenance of cell identity by epigenetic modifications to the genome, and conversely, the process of cell reprogramming back towards a stem cell identity and the degradation of cell identity by age-related epigenetic changes are core interests of his research.

Professor Reik commented:

I am pleased and honoured to be able to take on this responsibility. I am also grateful for the support I have received across the Institute, from our Board of Trustees, the Babraham Research Campus, and BBSRC. Babraham is an incredible place, with an illustrious history of discoveries, firmly embedded within Cambridge’s vibrant science environment and with an exceptional international presence. I am proud to build on the leadership of Michael Wakelam, and I am excited about the prospect of further developing the Institute’s work on the fundamental mechanism of ageing.

Professor Reik obtained his MD from the University of Hamburg in 1985 where he remained to undertake his thesis work with Rudolf Jaenisch; He did his postdoctoral work with Azim Surani at the Institute of Animal Physiology, now the Babraham Institute. He 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. 


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: 27th May 2020 Professor Wolf Reik FRS appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute

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

Podcast: 24th November 2020: Wolf features in Active Motif’s Epigenetics podcast talking about epigenetic programming in embryogenesis and single cell experimental methods.

Interview: Let’s all meet up in the year 3000: Wolf Reik discussed the concept of the biological clock with science writer Tom Chivers for his article exploring mortality.

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 strategic programme grants and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £451 million in world-class bioscience in 2019-20. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.