Our research features take a more in-depth look at selected aspects of our research and the wider impacts of our science for the wider world. Browse all of these articles in the reader window below or access specific features directly from the introductions further down the page. These features were originally produced as part of our Annual Research Reports.
This feature was written by Becky Allen for the Annual Research Report 2019-2020.
Fundamental research is vital for science and society. Many medical and technological revolutions are rooted in basic research, yet those roots can be hard to trace. Today, spinouts are key to turning academic bioscience into healthcare treatments. Dr Stefan Schoenfelder, a group leader in the Institute’s Epigenetics programme and co-founder of Enhanc3D Genomics, discusses taking a tool developed for fundamental research and building a business around it.
Healthy ageing is one of society’s most pressing concerns, but basic questions like why we age remain a mystery. Dr Jon Houseley, a group leader in the Institute’s Epigenetics programme, studies the ways in which yeast cells adapt to new environments. As well as uncovering new connections between adaptation and ageing, his research is challenging our ideas about ageing itself.
Great science depends on teamwork, yet genuine partnerships are rare, especially those which sustain success over decades. Dr Len Stephens and Dr Phill Hawkins, both group leaders in the Institute’s Signalling programme, have worked together for more than 30 years. Here, they reflect on their research, their relationship – and their distinctly different approaches to fishing.
Setting up a new group is exciting and daunting. Two group leaders who joined the Signalling programme in 2019 – Dr Hayley Sharpe and Dr Rahul Samant – talk about their research and the supportive, collaborative and open environment that they say marks out the Institute.
As well as exposing weaknesses in healthcare systems and supply chains, the coronavirus pandemic has underscored the importance of fundamental research and collective effort. During 2020, scientists rose to the challenge of developing new vaccines and effective treatments for Covid-19. Institute immunologists Dr Michelle Linterman and Professor Adrian Liston describe how their labs responded and the lessons we must learn.
Oxygen makes up 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere and plays a pivotal role in biological systems. Despite this, huge gaps remain in our understanding of how this essential element regulates cell signalling pathways and affects our immune system – questions that Dr Sarah Ross aims to answer.
This feature was written by Becky Allen for the Annual Research Report 2018
Big data is revolutionising science. But as well as changing physics, chemistry and biology, it’s changing the nature of science itself. Institute researchers Wolf Reik and Stefan Schoenfelder and bioinformatics expert Simon Andrews reflect on how big data is re-shaping not only the way they work, but how they think. And we discover how bioinformatics – once considered a geeky corner of biology by some – has become central to scientific progress.
Once neglected as too dull to study and too sticky to work with, lipids are at last stepping out of the shadows. Institute Director Michael Wakelam and lipidomics facility manager Andrea Lopez-Clavijo explain the challenges of working with these cellular Cinderellas and share their excitement of research in a field that’s finally giving up its secrets.
New group leaders bring new skills, new expertise and new perspectives, and 2018 saw three new group leaders join the Institute’s Immunology programme. Professor Adrian Liston, Dr Claudia Ribeiro de Almeida and Dr Sarah Ross talk about their research, their ambitions and what makes the Institute such a special place to work.
This feature was written by Becky Allen for the Annual Research Report 2017
The Institute does world-leading research, and using public engagement to enthuse, excite and inspire is a key part of our mission. This year, we teamed up with two innovative artists to transform our data into a virtual reality experience. The result, CHROMOS, is allowing new audiences to discover the DNA drama that goes on inside the nucleus of a single cell.
Ensuring that the Institute’s world-leading research has a direct impact on people’s health means translating – and contextualising – our science for many audiences. For parliamentarians and policy makers, healthy ageing is among the 21st century’s most pressing problems. So as well as pioneering research on healthy ageing, we’re ensuring science is accessible to decision makers through our knowledge exchange programme.
Bringing together the Institute’s researchers with scientists in the 60 companies on the Babraham Research Campus is helping turn innovative ideas into new benefits for human health – fast. Over the past two years, members of the Signalling research programme have transformed a conversation over coffee into a collaboration that could deliver new ways of treating some of the most intractable human cancers.
The Institute’s research is having a major impact on global public health. Although the first vaccines were developed more than two centuries ago, infectious diseases such as malaria and influenza still affect millions of people each year. By improving our understanding of the immune system and its response to modern vaccines, the Institute is paving the way for better vaccines that will protect more people from life-threatening diseases.
This feature was written by Becky Allen for the Annual Research Report 2016
When the first draft of the human genome was published in 2001, it was described as a treasure trove of information. But using that information to understand disease demands going far beyond the DNA code. Now, researchers at the Institute are pioneering a new method of mapping our genome’s complex regulatory interactions that could open up new ways to treat genetic diseases and understand ageing.
For many years regarded as merely a cell biological process, autophagy is now implicated in many diseases. Thanks to progress made in the Signalling research programme this year autophagy – the mechanism cells use to recycle unwanted or damaged components to create molecules they need – is now understood in greater detail than ever before. We find out how research at the Institute could harness autophagy to help us age more healthily.
In 1796, a doctor in rural Gloucestershire took pus from a cowpox lesion on a milkmaid’s hand to inoculate an eight-year-old boy against smallpox. More than 230 years after Edward Jenner’s pioneering vaccination, we still don’t fully understand how our immune system works. Now, researchers in the Institute’s Immunology programme have uncovered a new layer of regulation in immune cells – a discovery that could have far-reaching implications for vaccines, cancer and healthier ageing.
Every cell type in our body results from a different reading of the same genome. Over the past 30 years, scientists have learned that our genes are controlled by epigenetics – a combination of processes that switch genes on and off without altering the DNA sequence itself. But much of epigenetics remains a mystery. The Institute’s Epigenetics programme is exploring the earliest stages of life and how understanding this could help reprogramme cells for regenerative medicine applications in the future.