skip to content

School of the Biological Sciences

All life around us, from bacteria and viruses to plants and animals, is made up of molecules and cells. How these units of life work together to make individuals as complex as ourselves is a key question to our understanding of health and disease.  The Molecules and Cells Research Theme brings together more than 140 leading scientists to share knowledge and ideas across disciplinary boundaries to advance our understanding of the rules of life. 

Current areas of focus include: DNA and chromatin; RNA and proteins; Cellular pathways and signalling; Cellular organisation and dynamics; Cell physiology and behaviour; Chemical biology and protein engineering

Recent Discoveries

Algae-powered computing: scientists create reliable and renewable biological photovoltaic cell

Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry have used a widespread species of blue-green algae to power a microprocessor continuously for a year – and counting – using nothing but ambient light and water. Their system has potential as a reliable and renewable way to power small devices.

The system, comparable in size to an AA battery, contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The tiny electrical current this generates then interacts with an aluminium electrode and is used to power a microprocessor. Read

Wider Impact

Tackling cardiac rhythm abnormalities to extend and improve quality of life

Problems with the rhythm of the heart (arrhythmias) are a major cause of sudden cardiac arrest, causing 4.5 million deaths annually worldwide. Research at the University of Cambridge from 2002 to 2019 aimed at understanding the fundamental biochemistry of electrical errors in the heart has led to the creation of the first subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD). Since 2013, this device has been used to treat nearly 90,000 patients across 42 countries. Read


Revolutionising cancer therapy via the DNA-damage response

Research at the University of Cambridge into DNA repair inhibitors led to a novel cancer therapy, Olaparib, which has been approved for ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer treatment. Stephen Jackson is a world-class pioneer in DNA damage repair mechanisms and was one of the first to attempt to translate his basic research in this area to drug discovery, recognising that faulty DNA damage repair pathways in cancers could be exploited therapeutically. Read

Theme Members organised by subtheme

Cellular pathways and signalling

Led by Helen Mott and Graham Ladds






Cell physiology and behaviour

Led by Suzanne Turner and Vito Mennella


Matthew Harper

Richard Hayward

Liz Hook

Laura Itzhaki

Tony Jackson

Randall Johnson

Walid Khaled

Golnar Kolahgar

Heike Laman

Joo-Hyeon Lee

Catherine Lindon

Marion MacFarlane

Bidesh Mahata

Luis Miguel Martins

Vito Menella

Eric Miska





Cellular organisation and dynamics



DNA and chromatin

Led by Rosana Collepardo-Guevara and Brian Hendrich






RNA and proteins

Led by Eric Miska and Alex Borodavka


Eric Miska

Ritwick Sawarkar

Dee Scadden

Benjamin Simons

Stephen Smith

Chris Smith

Tim Weil

Anne Willis





Chemical biology and protein engineering

Led by Paul Miller and Florian Hollfelder


Learn More

Members of the School can find out more about the Research Themes on the School Information Hub.

What impact will your next connection have?

Cambridge Global Impact

From the Arctic to Zambia, explore the new interactive global map to learn how Cambridge and its partners make a positive impact around the world.