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

Phase separation drives rotavirus replication factories

Rotavirus is the most common virus causing gastroenteritis in children in the UK. Almost every child in the UK has a rotavirus infection before they are 5 years old and some of them need hospital care because of rotavirus infection.

Alexander Borodavka coordinated a multidisciplinary project on the mechanism of formation of viral replication factories - viroplasms. The authors reveal for the first time how two nonstructural proteins form liquid–liquid phase-separated condensates as the structural foundation of viroplasms, showing the importance of exploiting molecular condensates as antiviral therapeutic targets. Read



Switching on a key cancer gene could provide first curative treatment for heart disease

Heart failure affects around 23 million people worldwide each year, and there is currently no cure. The loss of heart cells reduces the strength of the heart and causes scar formation, heart failure and ultimately death.

Catherine Wilson is the lead author of this study, where researchers trying to turn off a gene that allows cancers to spread have made a surprising U-turn. By making the gene overactive and functional in the hearts of mice, they have triggered heart cell regeneration. 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


Florian Hollfelder

Marko Hyvonen

Laura Itzhaki

Tony Jackson

Randall Johnson

Golnar Kolahgar

Vassilis Koronakis

Graham Ladds

Heike Laman

Joo-Hyeon Lee

Catherine Lindon

Trevor Littlewood

Sarah Lummis

Marion MacFarlane

Maria Marti Solano

Michael James Mason

Paul Miller

Helen Mott

Daniel Nietlispach

Cahir O'Kane





Cell physiology and behaviour

Led by Suzanne Turner and Vito Mennella


Richard Hayward

Liz Hook

Laura Itzhaki

Tony Jackson

Randall Johnson

Walid Khaled

Golnar Kolahgar

Heike Laman

Joo-Hyeon Lee

Catherine Lindon

Trevor Littlewood 

Marion MacFarlane

Bidesh Mahata

Luis Miguel Martins

Vito Menella

Eric Miska

Andrew Murray





Cellular organisation and dynamics

Led by Clare Buckley and Jennifer Gallop



DNA and chromatin

Led by Rosanna Collepardo-Guevara and Brian Hendrich




RNA and proteins

Led by Eric Miska and Alex Borodavka




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.