Our Research

At the Babraham Institute we carry out world-leading innovative research into the molecular mechanisms that underlie normal cellular processes and functions. A particular focus is how we age and studying the underlying mechanisms controlling this process, for example how older people respond differently to infection compared to the young. To answer these questions we examine the regulation of gene expression, the control of cell function by signalling processes and changes in organ systems including the nervous system. Read more about our Research into the Ageing process.

Two themes are central to our research remit: cell signalling – how cells respond to cues from their external environment; and epigenetics – how the genome is regulated without change to the DNA sequence of genes. Defining how cell signalling events from conception through to adulthood can lead to long-term, epigenetic changes is a great challenge in 21st century biology. Our research under these themes is carried out in the context of important processes in early development and of key functions of the body, particularly in the immune and nervous systems. Much of the work employs genetic models in rodents which can reveal both underlying molecular mechanisms at the cellular level and their overall impact in terms of dysfunction and disease.

Understanding ageing to increase healthspan

One of the major achievements of the modern era is the extension of the human lifespan through improvements in medical care, nutrition, sanitation and access to clean water. Over the last century, life expectancy at birth in the UK has risen by almost 30 yrs so that both men and women can now expect to live well into their 80s. This is shifting population demographics; almost 1 in 5 of the UK’s total population is aged 65 or over and this is expected to rise to 1 in 4 by 2050.

These gains in lifespan have not been matched by gains in healthspan. Progressive physiological and physical decline are a part of normal ageing but increased age also increases the risk and incidence of numerous debilitating diseases and ailments including macular degeneration, dementia and cancer. Older people are also more susceptible to a variety of infections and exhibit reduced antibody responses to vaccinations due to the age-related decline in immune function.

Ageing is a societal grand challenge, scientific research offers the possibility to help more of us understand how to remain healthy, happy and active throughout life. If we are to understand and ameliorate these deficits in healthspan we need to understand the complex alterations in biological functions that lead to ageing.

Showcasing our research

The Babraham Institute’s research is summarised in our Annual Research Report. As demonstrated by the level of activity and output of the Institute, it is easy to see why Babraham Institute is regarded as world-leading. 2017’s at a glance figures demonstrate this; hosting 113 visiting researchers, collaborating with 98 organisations in over 25 countries on 47 active projects.

Download your copy and find out about more of these metrics and the world-leading science and the scientists of the Institute.

Much of our research involves collaborations with the University of Cambridge, with other research institutions in the Cambridge region and with universities and organisations worldwide, and all our PhD students are affiliated to Cambridge Colleges.

Where the knowledge generated from the Institute’s research has potential for application, our scientists work with clinicians or with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to translate the research for social and economic benefit. This process is managed by Babraham Institute Enterprise Ltd (BIE), the Institute’s wholly-owned trading subsidiary.

The Institute forms the cornerstone of the developing Babraham Research Campus, home to some 50 start-up and growing bioscience companies, which is managed by Babraham Bioscience Technologies.