+ Facts and figures

Theme leader
Prof Murray Grant

01392 725166

Total investment*

Research income*


*Total University investment

A leaf attacked by bacteria that activate defences (left) and other leaves (top and bottom right) attacked by bacteria that suppress defences after seven hours.

Motor proteins for a chicken (left) and corn smut fungus (right). The comparison shows the unusual regions of the fungal motor (in pink).

Systems Biology

Research in this theme ranges across scales from the sub-cellular to understanding the organisation of ecosystems.

Studies includes characterisation of small molecules and proteins, reconstructing gene and protein signalling networks through to application of next generation genomic technologies to cure crop diseases, investigate genetic disorders and developing novel biotechnologies.

Central to this research is the application of computational, mathematical and novel imaging approaches to predict and inform experimentation.

To facilitate these interdisciplinary activities a new Living Systems building is being built. The facility will accommodate researchers from biology, physics, mathematics, computer science and the Exeter Medical School.

REF case studies

Case studyDescription
Inspiring secondary students to learn about ocean acidification
Dr Ceri Lewis’ research expeditions to the Canadian High Arctic to investigate impacts of ocean acidification have informed educational material, introducing oceans education to schools, both nationally and internationally. The resulting education resources, are already being used by 1,225 UK secondary schools (30 per cent of secondary schools in the UK), reaching more than 658,000 pupils within the first year of being launched.
Microbial production of fourth-generation biofuels
The Exeter Microbial Biofuels Group (EMBG) investigates the molecular and biochemical basis of hydrocarbon production in microbes and planktonic algae for the industrial production of innovative biofuels that can directly substitute for petrol. Through close collaboration with Shell, the EMBG has directly influenced the R&D strategy of the organisation.
Research on feminised fish is giving rise to new policies and guidelines
Research led by Professor Charles Tyler provided critical data on the widespread adverse oestrogenic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in wild fish populations in the UK. The research has led to world-wide recognition that endocrine disrupting chemicals are an emerging policy issue, a £40million demonstration project with the UK government and water industry, and multi-million pound benefits to the UK in terms of improved water quality and safeguarding freshwater wildlife.
The association between bisphenol A and heart disease
Research by Professors Tamara Galloway, David Melzer, and Michael Depledge identified, for the first time, associations between exposure to the widespread environmental contaminant bisphenol A (BPA) and changing incidences of disease. The research showed higher exposures to BPA are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hormonal changes.

Our impact

Treatment of diseases

We have gained new insight into the molecular basis for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, thanks to work led by Dr Michael Schrader. The team discovered that a protein, previously identified on the energy factories of the cell, is also found on the fat-metabolising organelles peroxisomes, suggesting a closer link between the two organelles.

Vital developments in preventing antibiotic resistance in bacteria have been made through our research into E.Coli. The researchers found that the rate of evolution of antibiotic resistance speeds up when potent treatments are given because resistant bacterial cells flourish most during the most aggressive therapies.

Potential warning signs for severe coronary artery stenosis have been identified thanks to our Bisphenol A (BPA) research, which discovered that this chemical, commonly found in food and drink containers, can be linked to coronary artery disease (CAD).

Meeting fuel demands

Challenges in meeting global fuel demands could be a step closer after research carried out by Dr John Love uncovered a method to make bacteria produce biofuel on demand. The project in collaboration with Shell found that diesel, produced by special strains of E. coli bacteria, is almost identical to conventional diesel fuel.

Influencing wastewater policy

Prof Charles Tyler's work on work on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) identified the widespread disruption of sexual development in fish in UK rivers was a consequence of exposure to wastewater effluents.

Battling ash dieback

The molecular and cellular basis of interactions between ash and the fungus which causes ash dieback (Charla fraxinea) are being investigated using state-of-the-art genetic sequencing and imaging technologies by Exeter bioscientists.

This research is undertaken as part of the Nornex consortium of tree health, forestry and scientific specialists. Member organisations include universities, governmental departments and charities.