Science programme

Vaccinia virus particles leaving a host cell after replicating

Vaccinia virus particles leaving a host cell after replicating

The Crick undertakes discovery research informed by the range of human disease. The span and diversity of our research, plus the ability to interact freely with scientists and other academics associated with the three university founders, promotes cross-fertilisation between studies of different diseases and novel approaches to scientific enquiry.

We recruit the brightest and most effective researchers working across a range of scientific areas, using an approach known as 'best scientific athlete'.

Our research programme is defined by seven high level science questions reflecting both major issues of interest in biomedical research and the current research strategies of our six founders. The first three questions are cross-cutting and overlapping, the remaining four are more thematic.

These questions are explored using a range of experimental approaches. 

The Crick clinical research programme will evolve through discussions and engagement with our university founders, informing the focus of efforts and through the appointment of senior clinical scientists. Ensuring that the knowledge gained through exploration of our science questions is appropriately tested and translated into clinical research, and ultimately into benefits for patients, is of particular importance to the Crick.

Download a diagram [PDF] summarising our science questions and experimental approaches.

  1. 1. How does a living organism acquire form and function?

    Understanding the intricate processes that allow living organisms to develop from a single cell to a fully functional adult organism can provide important insights into human health and disease. These insights also enable progress in regenerative medicine − the process of replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function. 


  2. 2. How do organisms maintain health and balance throughout life and as they age?

    Living organisms need mechanisms to maintain themselves and their internal environment in constant conditions, in a changing environment. Understanding these mechanisms and what causes them to break down aids understanding of the normal ageing process as well as many human diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer. 


  3. 3. How can we use biological knowledge to better understand, diagnose and treat human disease?

    Better studies of human beings in health and disease improve our understanding of how we function, and help to translate improved biological knowledge into applications that improve patient and population health. The Crick works with its university founders to integrate knowledge gained from laboratory studies and studies involving patients. 


  4. 4. How does cancer start, spread and respond to therapy?

    Cancer is a major cause of human morbidity and mortality. Unravelling the genetic, cellular and physiological changes that govern how cancer develops and spreads both improves our understanding of this complex disease and enables better therapeutic strategies. 


  5. 5. How does the immune system know whether, when and how to react?

    The immune system is the human body's major defence mechanism, crucial both to combat pathogens and to defend against cancer. Crick research will explore how the immune system functions and how malfunctions can increase susceptibility to infection and disease. 


  6. 6. How do microbes and pathogens function and interact with their hosts?

    Infectious diseases remain a significant challenge to human health. Research at the Crick improves our understanding of a wide range of pathogenic organisms, exploring the complex interactions between pathogens, commensals (organisms which co-exist with their host without harm) and the host. 


  7. 7. How does the nervous system detect, store and respond to information and retain that information throughout life?

    The complexity of nervous systems means that progress in understanding the mechanisms of disease and potential therapeutic approaches has been slow. Crick research has an emphasis on simpler vertebrate and invertebrate models which offer opportunities to tackle this complexity, complementing our university founders' expertise in human and rodent models.


  8. Experimental approaches

    To explore the basic questions, the Crick facilitates the development of effective technical and conceptual approaches. We combine existing biomedical research technology with new and emerging disciplines. This includes approaches not traditionally associated with biomedical research, ranging from the physical sciences to ecology and ethology. 

    We work closely with our three university founders, drawing on their multi and interdisciplinary expertise to develop new analysis, measurement and calculation and imaging tools for biomedical research.


  • Our research programme is defined by seven high-level science questions reflecting the major issues of interest in biomedical research.
  • Researchers explore these questions using a range of experimental approaches, drawing on the university partners' multi and interdisciplinary expertise.