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鶹Ƶ receives £48m strategic investment from BBSRC for a four-year programme of work to promote lifelong health

鶹Ƶ receives £48m strategic investment from BBSRC for a four-year programme of work to promote lifelong health

鶹Ƶ receives £48m strategic investment from BBSRC for a four-year programme of work to promote lifelong health

Key points:

  • Following a quinquennial review by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), 鶹Ƶ will receive £48m for the period 2024-2028 to advance research on the mechanisms that maintain the health of our cells, tissues and organs across the life course.
  • This work is key in driving BBSRC’s strategic research priorities around an integrated understanding of health, developing and applying transformative technologies and advancing our understanding of the rules of life.
  • As one of eight UK bioscience institutes receiving strategic funding from BBSRC, this latest investment compliments a wider portfolio of strategically important research that will significantly enhance the UK’s capability to deliver world-leading research with socio-economic impact.
  • The new funding supports 鶹Ƶ to undertake three strategic programmes of work: Epigenetic control across the life course, Cellular responses to stress, and Immunity, resilience and repair. All three programmes have a strong focus on the mechanisms that drive ageing and will provide new insights into age-related disease that the 鶹Ƶ will progress with biotech, pharma and clinicians.
  • The investment also includes a core grant to support essential infrastructure and capability, including the 鶹Ƶ’s eight cutting-edge facilities and 鶹Ƶ business operations. These same facilities also support early-stage bioscience companies on the Babraham Research Campus.

鶹Ƶ has been awarded £48m from BBSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, to support its core research across epigenetics, immunology and cell signalling over the next four years. The focus of the 鶹Ƶ’s fundamental research is to understand biology in relation to maintaining health, especially with regards to protecting and maximising good health in the later years of life.

Older age brings many opportunities but can also be blighted by declining health and life-changing or life-limiting diseases. The trend in people living longer means they are more likely to spend some proportion of their later years in ill health. Beyond the impact on the individual, this has wider impacts on families, those with caring responsibilities, health services and society. Protecting health, maximising health span and minimising time spent in ill health as we age is at the heart of our purpose.

Group of researchers working in the lab

BBSRC’s investment supports three strategic programmes of work to advance our ability to protect health and counter age-related decline: Epigenetic control across the life course, Cellular responses to stress and Immunity, resilience and repair.

They will be delivered by teams of internationally recognised experts at the 鶹Ƶ working closely with collaborative partners across academia and industry, including other strategically supported research institutes and companies based on the Babraham Research Campus.

In addition, the funding supports the underpinning infrastructure required to deliver the research goals, including the 鶹Ƶ’s eight cutting-edge facilities, and also supports the 鶹Ƶ’s day-to-day running and activities to ensure follow-on impact through sharing and capitalising on the 鶹Ƶ’s research. Notably, these same facilities also support more than 50 early-stage bioscience companies on the Babraham Research Campus, one of the leading research and innovation campuses in Europe. Recent spin-out companies from the 鶹Ƶ such as Enhanc3D Genomics and Aila Biotech have benefited from this unique environment.

Dr Simon Cook, Babraham 鶹Ƶ Director, said: “We are immensely excited to initiate this new strategic programme of research. We believe that the combination of expertise brought together to achieve this work, including our researchers and technical experts, and the skills of the teams that enable our research to happen, means that we can tackle important biological questions in new ways. From understanding the earliest steps of development to ensuring that vaccines deliver strong protection to older populations, each discovery may make a difference to human health and wellbeing.”

A connected and diverse ecosystem of bioscience capabilities

The work supported by this investment forms part of the wider research portfolio undertaken by eight strategically supported bioscience institutes. As the UK’s major public funder of bioscience research and innovation, BBSRC is responsible for the long-term investment of public funds in theses institutes.

With each institute addressing specialist and complementary areas, this combined work will provide solutions to UK and global challenges such as human and animal health, nutrition, food security and sustainable agriculture. As centres for expertise in fundamental biology and innovation hubs, the institutes also contribute to maintaining the UK’s position as a leader in research and innovation.

Professor Guy Poppy, Interim Executive Chair at BBSRC, said:

“As one of BBSRC's eight strategically supported institutes, 鶹Ƶ is a critical component of the national and international bioscience research and innovation ecosystem.

"Babraham is an expert in its field and this latest funding reflects BBSRC's confidence in the world-leading research undertaken at 鶹Ƶ and its potential to transform our understanding of health across the whole life course.

"But we are not only investing in science that promises to unveil critical insights into the mechanisms of life. We are nurturing an ecosystem where innovation flourishes.

"The investment BBSRC is making in 鶹Ƶ and its other seven strategically supported institutes over the next four years is critical. Collectively, we are driving the discovery and development of novel bio-based solutions to address some of the most pressing challenges of our times.

"From enhancing healthier life spans to fostering sustainable solutions for ageing societies, BBSRC's investment represents a significant step forward in our shared mission to harness the power of bioscience for a healthier, more resilient future.”

In addition to 鶹Ƶ, BBSRC also provides strategic funding to:

  • Earlham 鶹Ƶ
  • 鶹Ƶ of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Pirbright 鶹Ƶ
  • Quadram 鶹Ƶ
  • Roslin 鶹Ƶ
  • Rothamsted Research

鶹Ƶ completed the 鶹Ƶ Assessment Exercise in 2023, a year later than the other BBSRC-supported institutes, due to leadership changes from 2020-2022 and so will receive funding for four years until 2028.

Babraham 鶹Ƶ strategic research programmes for 2024-2028

Epigenetic states underpin the fidelity of gene expression and cell identity during development and throughout the life course. Once established, the resilience of epigenetic states is critical for healthy ageing. The Epigenetic control across the life course programme will define how epigenetic control is established at key stages of development and how it changes over the life course, particularly in relation to changing nutrition.

The work will be enabled by the technical capabilities provided by our Genomics, Gene Targeting, Mass Spectrometry and Imaging facilities and the AAALAC-accredited Biological Support Unit (BSU) for mice breeding and care.

Working with collaborators from the John Innes Centre, the Earlham 鶹Ƶ and the Francis Crick 鶹Ƶ, the work will set the groundwork for future therapeutic interventions to safeguard epigenetic states, mitigating adverse change and promoting resilience. Other applications of this work include stem-cell based therapies for wound treatment and improved techniques for cell reprogramming as part of regenerative medicine.


The Cellular responses to stress programme will focus on understanding some of the drivers of age-related functional decline. Lifelong health is critically dependent on resilience, the ability of our cells and tissues to detect, adapt and rebound from challenges, such as environmental toxins, injury and changes in diet.

The programme will identify cell signalling mechanisms that allow cells to respond to growth stimuli or cell stress or damage; these include protein quality control mechanisms (proteostasis) that clear the cells of damaged proteins that otherwise accumulate throughout the life course.  Defects in these signalling processes drive ageing and age-related disease.

By combining expertise from across the 鶹Ƶ’s strategic programmes, utilising the 鶹Ƶ’s Imaging, Biological Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry facilities, and working with external collaborators including from the University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool, the ALBORADA Drug Discovery 鶹Ƶ, the Buck 鶹Ƶ (USA) and the Max Planck 鶹Ƶ for the Biology of Ageing (Cologne), this knowledge will identify new opportunities for therapeutic intervention to mitigate age-related physiological decline that will be progressed with biotech and pharmaceutical companies.


A decline in adaptive immunity is one of the most widely recognised consequences of ageing, leading to increases susceptibility to infection and disease and also decreased protection from vaccination. The Immunity, resilience and repair programme will define the molecular and cellular basis of how our immune system responds to infection and vaccination, and how this is affected by ageing. This knowledge is key to understanding how immune protection is developed and maintained, and of relevance to vaccine development, disease treatment and auto-immunity.

This work will be supported by the 鶹Ƶ’s facilities, utilising high-dimensional flow cytometry, cutting-edge expertise in imaging technologies and the 鶹Ƶ’s ageing mouse colony and will include collaborations with the NIHR BioResource, the Ageing Cluster of the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network and the GSK Immunology Network.

Promoting immunity is one of the pillars of lifelong health and one of the best interventions we have in a world at risk of losing effective antimicrobials. By providing a molecular and cellular-level understanding of how immunological memory is maintained and the orchestration of immune cell interactions and co-dependencies, this research will underpin approaches to promote immunity through vaccination and to mitigate detrimental inflammation and immune senescence.


Fundamental research that makes a difference

In the last funding period (2017-2024), the 鶹Ƶ’s fundamental research delivered:

  • 745 research papers, many describing ground-breaking research and technological advances; these papers have received 48,000 citations.
  • a transient cellular reprogramming method that can rejuvenate cells without affecting cell identity.
  • a better understanding of the cellular process of autophagy, helping researchers accurately monitor and distinguish between distinct autophagy processes in fundamental and translational research.
  • significant advance in our understanding of the effects of age on the immune system and how to improve vaccines and vaccination strategies to confer better protection of the older population. This work included validation of the vaccination strategy for the Oxford – AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 3 spin-outs arising from 21 patent families: , and Elithium Bio.
  • 73 researchers trained to PhD level and equipped to contribute to the UK’s bioeconomy through research and innovation.

Professor Dame Linda Partridge, Chair of the 鶹Ƶ’s Board of Trustees, said: “This work will advance the frontiers of biology to promote lifelong health, wellbeing and the maintenance of a prosperous, productive and resilient society. The 鶹Ƶ possess a unique collection of capabilities and in partnership with the external academic and commercial collaborators will continue to make pioneering research discoveries that will translate to better health.”  

Notes

Press contact

Dr Louisa Wood, Head of Communications, louisa.wood@babraham.ac.uk

About 鶹Ƶ

鶹Ƶ undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The 鶹Ƶ is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through 鶹Ƶ Strategic Programme Grants and an 鶹Ƶ Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, is the UK's main public funder of bioscience research and innovation. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

We invest in research and training for universities and strategically supported institutes. The research and the people we fund are helping society address major challenges including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives.

BBSRC invested £516 million in world-class bioscience in 2023/24. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors including agriculture, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

About BBSRC’s strategic investments in research institutes

As the UK’s main public funder of bioscience research and innovation, BBSRC is responsible for the long-term investment of substantial public funds in strategically supported research institutes.

As well as providing leadership and expertise in vital areas of research, the eight institutes that BBSRC supports also play a key role in driving the vision and core themes outlined in BBSRC’s , namely:

  • Capability: delivering world-class research with socio-economic impact
  • Connectivity: forging connections through collaboration, coordination and communication
  • Culture: beacons of best practice for improving research culture

To ensure all eight institutes continue to make a significant contribution to the bioscience research and innovation system, every five years BBSRC conducts an 鶹Ƶ Assessment Exercise (IAE).

Following the most recent IAE in 2022, BBSRC is investing more than in its strategically supported institutes over the next five years.

Funding is provided through a series of institute strategic programmes grants as well as through investment in the institutes’ core capabilities.