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Research strategy

The Living Systems Institute is generating knowledge from the nanoscale to the macroscale that will deepen our appreciation of the natural world whilst underpinning future human health and wellbeing

Biological science has been transformed in the 21st century by advances in high-throughput sequencing technology: the resulting explosion of data is giving us unprecedented insights into the evolutionary origins of a multitude of species – including humans - as well as uncovering the genetic basis of a plethora of diseases.

With this success comes a much greater challenge, namely understanding how genomes, and in particular the proteins and RNAs that they encode, regulate the development, metabolism, physiology, behaviour and disease susceptibility of living systems.

Research in the Living Systems Institute addresses these questions by taking a multiscale and interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of fundamental biological processes.

Our strategy is predicated on the premise that a shared evolutionary history underlies conserved cellular and molecular principles. Accordingly, we use a range of model organisms and cell based assays to study a variety of systems and processes, such as neural circuit structure and function, stem cell self-renewal and differentiation, cell division, signalling and survival, organelle structure and function, as well as the population dynamics and interactions of micro-organisms and their hosts.

Rapid technological advances are providing new ways of probing the structure and dynamics of the molecular complexes that underpin these processes. We develop and use a variety of complementary analytical methods and platforms including hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, nanophotonics, super resolution microscopy and microfluidics, to describe living systems at the nanoscale.

Computational analysis can illuminate how function emerges in systems from the macro to the nano scale. We develop mathematical models to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of living systems, formulating testable hypotheses with real predictive value.

By focusing on understanding organisms as complex systems, the knowledge that we uncover will inform new approaches to some of the most pressing challenges to human health, such as neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric and metabolic disorders, cancers and infections.