Welcoming Dr Ian McGough to the Signalling research programme

Welcoming Dr Ian McGough to the Signalling research programme

Welcoming Dr Ian McGough to the Signalling research programme

Key points:

  • Dr Ian McGough joins the Institute today as a group leader in the Signalling research programme.
  • Dr McGough’s research focuses on the role of growth factors in development and maintenance of organs and in particular aims to answer long-standing questions about the role of Wnt signalling in tissue formation and maintenance.
  • Dr McGough is the first new group leader to join the Institute following an exciting phase of group leader recruitment to the Signalling and Epigenetic research programmes. The Institute is also pleased to announce the appointments of Dr Teresa Rayon from the Francis Crick Institute, Dr Sophie Trefely from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University and Dr Philipp Voigt from the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology.
  • Dr McGough, a Wellcome Trust and Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow, joins from the Francis Crick Institute, where he was a postdoctoral researcher.

The Institute is delighted to welcome Dr Ian McGough as the newest group leader in the Signalling research programme. Ian joins the Institute from the Francis Crick Institute. Dr McGough is the first of four new group leaders joining the Institute, he will soon be joined by Dr Teresa Rayon from the Francis Crick Institute, Dr Sophie Trefely from the University of Pennsylvania and Dr Philipp Voigt from the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology.

Interim Institute Director and Head of the ISP Signalling Programme Dr Simon Cook said “I am delighted to welcome all of our new group leaders to the Institute. I am excited about the invigoration this will provide for the Institute and to see these wonderful scientists and their research projects starting in 2021 and 2022. Drs Trefely and Rayon will be bridging the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes, an appointment that reflects the collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit that we have here.”

Dr Ian McGough - Signalling programme appointment

Dr Ian McGough

Dr McGough’s research seeks to uncover how cells communicate with each other to create and maintain healthy tissues and organs, in particular focusing on how morphogen signalling pathways, crucial regulators of stem cell maintenance during adulthood, function at the molecular level and how stem cell renewal declines as we age. As well as providing a blueprint for tissue formation during development Wnts and other morphogen proteins also maintain healthy tissue microarchitecture and function in adulthood. His work combines in vitro molecular biology and in vivo cell and developmental biology techniques in Drosophila to unravel the intricacies of signalling pathways and the different molecular interactions that happen during cell-to-cell communication.

Ian’s research has expanded our understanding of how the morphogen Wnt is secreted from cells and diffuses to create a gradient that triggers different transcription programmes in the surrounding cells. He was recognised as the UK Young Cell Biologist of the Year by the British Society for Cell Biology for his work in the lab of Peter Cullen at the University of Bristol (described in Harterink et al. NCB 2011 and McGough et al. Nature Communications 2018).

After moving to Jean-Paul Vincent’s lab at the Francis Crick Institute, Ian turned his attention to unresolved question in the field of Wnt signalling; how the hydrophobic lipid part of Wnt is shielded after secretion by the cell to allow it to fulfil its signalling role (McGough et al. Nature 2020), and its role in establishing planar cell polarity during development (Yu et al. Developmental Cell 2020).

Dr McGough said “I am thrilled to be starting my research group at the Babraham Institute. I am looking forward to getting to know my new colleagues and establishing collaborations. The Institute is the perfect home for my lab to investigate both how Wnt signalling works at the cellular and molecular level and the interplay between Wnt signalling and ageing at the organismal level.”

Dr Cook welcomed Ian as he joins his new colleagues in the Signalling research programme: “Ian’s work has had a huge impact in the field of Wnt signalling. He has not shied away from tackling complex questions using sophisticated and multifaceted approaches. We are looking forward to welcoming Ian to the programme and learning from his expertise.”

Dr Philipp Voigt

Dr Philipp Voigt - Epigenetics programme appointment

Dr Philipp Voigt will join the Institute’s Epigenetics programme in October 2021.

Dr Voigt studies the molecules involved in establishing, interpreting, and erasing the epigenetic marks that control the accurate and timely expression of genes during development. Speaking about his new position, he said: “I’m delighted to be joining the Institute. I first heard about the Babraham Institute in the early days of my PhD work on phosphoinositide 3-kinases. Ever since, I have known Babraham as a place that drives excellent science, making important contributions to both signalling and epigenetics.”


Dr Teresa Rayon

Dr Teresa Rayon - Joint appointment across the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes

Dr Teresa Rayon will join the Institute in early 2022.

Dr Rayon seeks to understand the regulatory and dynamic processes that control developmental timing across and within species. Her ultimate goal is understand the impact of changes in the precisely orchestrated timing of development on lifespan. She commented: “The supportive and friendly environment, the focus on epigenetics and signalling, and the state-of-the art facilities at the Babraham make the Institute the best place for me to develop my programme of work. Even though I will join in February 2022, the team at Babraham has made sure that I am involved already in the institute activities, which has amplified my feeling of belonging. I can’t wait to join the team!”


Dr Sophie Trefely

Dr Sophie Trefely - Joint appointment across the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes

Dr Sophie Trefely will join the Institute in early 2022.

Dr Trefely’s work focuses on signalling role of metabolites in diseases of aging including diabetes, obesity and cancer. Her line of investigation promises important insights into the control of epigenetic marks that depend on specific metabolites. Speaking about her appointment, Dr Trefely said: “I am incredibly excited to join the Babraham Institute and to start my lab exploring metabolic regulation in the nucleus and its implications in ageing. I look forward to the opportunity to learn from the outstanding researchers in complementary areas of epigenetics, signalling and immunology and to share my passion for metabolism.”



Press contact

Honor Pollard, Communications Officer, honor.pollard@babraham.ac.uk

Image description

Header image: A developing fruit fly wing stained for different signalling molecules. Cells in the middle of the organ signals to neighbouring cells by releasing a specific Wnt signalling protein called Wingless (green). Wingless spreads to and instructs neighbouring cells that receive a large amount of Wingless to switch on a specific gene called senseless (red). While those cells that receive high and medium levels of Wingless switch on a different gene called Distal-less (purple). This communication helps the developing organ to grow and attain the right cell types.

Additional/related resources

McGough lab research page

Signalling research programme page

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 Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant 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.