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Epigenetics expert Prof Wolf Reik appointed director of the Babraham Institute

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Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed as director of the Babraham Institute.

He has held the position of acting director since May 2020 following the death of Prof Michael Wakelam from Covid-19.

Prof Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute. Picture: Keith Heppell

An internationally renowned expert in epigenetics - who has led the institute’s work in the field since 2008 - Prof Reik has worked at Babraham for more than 30 years.

He said he was “honoured” to take on the role, adding: “Babraham is an incredible place, with an illustrious history of discoveries, firmly embedded within Cambridge’s vibrant science environment and with an exceptional international presence.

“I am proud to build on the leadership of Michael Wakelam, and I am excited about the prospect of further developing the institute’s work on the fundamental mechanism of ageing.”

Prof Peter Rigby, chair of the institute’s board, described him as “a world-class scientist” who would “provide the essential leadership and stability that will be required during the uncertain times that we all face”.

Prof Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute. Picture: Keith Heppell

Epigenetics describes genetic control by factors outside than our DNA. Epigenetic changes - which can be caused by our environment or behaviour - can switch genes on or off and determine which proteins are transcribed.

Prof Reik discovered the key molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting and of epigenetic reprogramming, and his research focuses on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms governing mammalian development and ageing.

Prof Melanie Welham, executive chair of the institute’s funder, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “On behalf of BBSRC, I am pleased to congratulate Prof Reik on his appointment as the director of the Babraham Institute. He is a remarkable and highly-respected scientist and is particularly well qualified to guide the institute’s world-class life sciences research.”


Prof Wolf Reik. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Wolf Reik. Picture: Keith Heppell

Professor Reik obtained his MD from the University of Hamburg in 1985 and remained to undertake his thesis work with Rudolf Jaenisch.

He did his postdoctoral work with Azim Surani at the Institute of Animal Physiology, now the Babraham Institute.

He is honorary professor of epigenetics and affiliate faculty at the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge, and associate faculty at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

He is a member of EMBO and the Academia Europaea (elected in 2003 and 2011, respectively), and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2003) and of the Royal Society (2010).

Prof Reik has been a member of funding committees of several of the UK’s key research funders such as UKRI-Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and Wellcome Trust.

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