Our science programme is broad and inclusive, exploring biological mechanisms at all scales from molecules through cells to organisms.
Biological knowledge lies at the heart of biomedicine, driving major improvements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.
Over the years, discovery research has led to better understanding of many diseases, and we’ve learned that knowledge about one disease can inform others, sometimes in unanticipated ways. The scientific approaches needed for further advances in understanding have become more multidisciplinary, incorporating unexpected biological disciplines such as evolutionary biology and ecology, as well as aspects of the physical, engineering and information sciences.
Our science programme has the flexibility to support promising and emerging fields of enquiry.
Our group leaders have the freedom to devise and undertake their own research programmes, which are set within broad and overlapping scientific areas.
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Two overarching themes aim to understand how living things work, spanning the scale from genes to organisms:
The Foundations of Life
The cell is the simplest entity considered unambiguously to be alive. We seek to understand the ways in which the molecules within cells – and the assemblies and machines they generate – are produced, operated, regulated and disassembled, and how these processes specify cell structures, organisation and behaviours.
By understanding the basic cellular processes that form the foundations of life, we can help establish how their misregulation leads to disease.
Understanding the organism
A living organism is an interacting society of cells. We study the cell behaviour behind organ development, reproduction and function, as well as diseases caused by environmental factors or genetic changes.
Five more thematic areas cover aspects of health and disease:
Cancers interact with and affect all our body’s processes, so cancer cuts across much of the research going on at the Crick and interfaces with many of our research themes.
Our combined strengths will enable a detailed understanding of the molecular and cellular interactions occurring during both tumour development and the body’s response to cancer, improving understanding of the transition to malignancy, drug resistance mechanisms and the potential for immunotherapy.
The Immune System and Infections
Viruses, bacteria and parasites infecting humans are some of the most important causes of death and disease worldwide.
Crick research will enhance understanding of the fundamental biology of these pathogens, revealing how they cause disease, evade the immune system and resist antimicrobial agents. This work will lead to the development of new diagnostics, vaccines and drugs.
Neural disorders have uniquely devastating effects, but many are poorly understood. We are at a technological turning point for neuroscience, close to having truly scalable, high-throughput technologies, which will make brain regions fully accessible and enable major advances in our understanding of how neural circuits generate behaviour.
In the coming years, clinical neuroscience will start to see a revolution in the treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases.
We have strengths in a number of important areas of neuroscience, and will continue to integrate work at the level of molecules, cells, circuits, systems and behaviour, fostering multidisciplinary interactions with our university partners and external collaborators.
Repair, Degeneration and Ageing
Degenerative diseases are a growing threat because of increased life expectancy.
Understanding the processes that lead to the degeneration of cells within different organ systems, as well as their inherent capacities for repair, can drive significant benefits to human health.
Physiology and Homeostasis
Homeostasis is central to our understanding of many aspects of biology. It is fundamental to the maintenance of cells and organisms, and implicated in many aspects of human health and disease.
A wide variety of physiological signals, including those from the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, are used to coordinate the behaviours of cells and tissues within the whole organism, ensuring proper functioning under different conditions.
Misregulated or malfunctioning physiological signals lie at the heart of many diseases. The Crick will develop this area in the coming years, harnessing our substantial expertise in genetics, developmental biology, cancer, immunity and neuroscience – all areas where the theoretical concepts and approaches overlap those of physiology.
Human Biology in Health and Disease
The Human Biology in Health and Disease theme integrates work in the five thematic areas with direct studies on human systems to understand how the human organism functions and malfunctions.
Discovery research to generate biological knowledge can be rapidly and effectively pursued using a range of model systems. Applying that knowledge to humans requires an understanding of the specific ways that the human organism works, how it malfunctions, and its response to external factors.
We will investigate the biological mechanisms underlying the disruption of homeostasis, and their links with human disease.
These investigations have the potential to affect human health in multiple ways: through better classification of disease, more effective diagnosis, identification of new disease-relevant biomarkers, and the development of potential new therapeutic strategies and preventive measures.
We will construct new models of human biology and disease, drawing on chemical biology; stem cells; human organoids and engineered artificial tissue systems; and humanised mouse models.
We will harness new gene editing technologies to define and validate antimicrobial targets in human pathogens. We will use improved understanding of physiology and homeostasis at the molecular, cellular, tissue and whole-body levels.
This will inform human pathophysiology and improve understanding of the effects of external challenges such as environmental stresses, pathogens and therapeutic drugs, and internal challenges such as perturbed metabolism, immune system changes and ageing.
Mechanistic insights into human disease often have their origin in large-scale epidemiology and human genetics, and we will continue to develop appropriate links through our university and institutional partnerships.
Using this ‘big data’, together with novel biomarker measurements, will facilitate better diagnosis, resolve disease mechanisms and help predict patient outcomes.