Thursday 12 January 2017


The Secret of Life: Chapter 2

With Oxford University Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, Professor Alastair Buchan, Professor Dame Carol Robinson and Professor Susan Lea

In the 1950s, science was altered forever by the discovery of the structure of DNA and how genes work: we are now on the verge of a second transformation. The extraordinary convergence of breakthroughs across different scientific disciplines is driving a revolution in biomedical science and enabling us to study the complexity of cells for the first time. Cells are the fundamental units that make up our bodies; consequently, their malfunction underlies almost all disease. By learning how cells function at a mechanical level – what goes wrong with them, how we can fix them and how drugs work – scientists expect to develop entirely new approaches to combatting diseases of the 21st Century, such as dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions, cancer and infections associated with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Oxford is the top ranked university in the world for medical science and its scientists are at the forefront of these efforts, bringing together the traditionally distinct areas of physical and life sciences to advance our understanding in this critical area.

Professor Louise Richardson

Professor Louise Richardson is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford and also serves on the boards of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and of several other charities.

Previously she served as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews and spent 20 years on the faculty of the Harvard Government Department, latterly as Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is a global authority on terrorism, whose path-breaking work, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat, precipitated a seismic shift in approaches to the study and tackling of terrorism.

Professor Alastair Buchan

Professor Alastair Buchan is Dean of Medicine and Head of the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford, an experimental neuroscientist, and clinical neurologist at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

As Professor of Stroke Medicine and Head of the Laboratory of Cerebral Ischaemia, he aims to identify novel neuroprotective strategies that may be used for the treatment or prevention of an acute stroke. As Dean and Head of the Medical Sciences Division, he has established an NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and a number of new departments in the University. Under his leadership, Oxford has for five successive years held the top ranking worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health subjects in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Professor Dame Carol Robinson

Professor Dame Carol Robinson is a pioneer in the use of mass spectrometry for structural biology and biophysics, with applications to a broad spectrum of biologically important macromolecular assemblies. Recent highlights from her work include the discovery that membrane protein complexes can be liberated from micelles in the gas phase while retaining their subunit interactions, lipid binding properties and overall topology. Very recently, she has shown that it is possible to transmit an intact translocon through the gas phase.

Carol’s work has attracted numerous international awards and prizes. She holds five honorary doctorates and received a DBE in 2013 for her contribution to science.

Professor Susan Lea

Professor Susan Lea’s work is at the forefront of structural biology, using the latest techniques to address fundamental questions in molecular mechanisms of disease. She is currently developing a world-leading electron microscope imaging facility at Oxford to extend access to this cutting-edge technology and further speed insight into disease mechanisms.

Susan is a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards for major international facilities, including the European Synchrotron Radiation Source and the Protein Data Bank for Europe, and also for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including Apellis (USA).

Cell. 3D. Cells under microscope