UoA 14: BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AT UCL (including Structural/Molecular Biology at Birkbeck)

OVERVIEW

The distinction between “basic”, “medical” or “pre-clinical” biology is increasingly difficult to define. The whole of UCL Biomedicine (life+medical sciences) and its component faculties has recently been restructured after external reviews. A single School of Life and Biomedical Sciences is subdivided into a Faculty of Biomedical Sciences (FBS), incorporating the former postgraduate institutes and a Faculty of Life Sciences (FLS). The FLS is latter subdivided into a Division of Psychology and Human Communication, and a Division of Biosciences, the latter being where most of the biological sciences at UCL are concentrated. This submission reports on research activity in the new Division of Biosciences (with the exception of “Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology” [NPP], submitted to UoA15) and incorporates researchers from neighbouring Birkbeck College (BBK), closely associated with UCL through the joint Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology (ISMB; director: Waksman, a UCL/Birkbeck cross-appointment). The ISMB represents a collaboration of prime strategic importance for both UCL and Birkbeck as this institute coordinates all structural, chemical, and computational biology activities on both campuses.

Since 2001, the groups covered in this submission have published 1,880 peer-reviewed papers (313 of these in high-impact [factor>10] journals) and have been awarded 561 new grants totalling £114M in external funding. The group includes 10 FRS and 11 FMedSci (in addition to fellows of other national and foreign academies). During the period of the submission, the group has trained 676 PhD students and 510 postdoctoral fellows.

RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT

A single Medical School was formed in 1990 by amalgamation of the UCL and Royal Free Hospital Medical Schools. UCL Biomedicine consisted of two faculties (Clinical Sciences, FCS and Life Sciences, FLS) and five research institutes. To enhance organisational coherence and integrate research, and following a formal international panel review (2005; Chair: Sir Keith Peters), the FCS and research institutes were amalgamated into a single Faculty (Biomedical Sciences - FBS), comprising 13 thematically-based research divisions aligned, where appropriate, with partner NHS Trusts. A separate review of Life Sciences by a committee chaired by Professor Alan North (2006) decided strategically to retain an independent FLS, and the FBS+FLS together now constitute the UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences - created to foster interdisciplinarity and a more coherent medical curriculum. Meanwhile, the Medical Research Council (MRC) selected UCL as its partner for re-development of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), because of complementary UCL research strengths and the co-location with UCL’s excellence in social science, law, philosophy, mathematical, physical, chemical and engineering sciences. Plans currently under development will result in a new combined NIMR-UCL research institute in London.

Mirroring the Research Departments of the new FLS Division of Bioscience, this submission is subdivided into three subject areas, defined by the main level of biological organisation that characterises their research:

(1) Molecular and structural biology (the ISMB, a joint venture between UCL and Birkbeck),

(2) Cell and developmental biology (“from cells to organs”) and

(3) Biology of populations, evolution and environment.

Within each of these themes, groups of investigators have been formed to combine complementary expertise to address major problems. Furthermore, because all subdivisions are artificial, and to stimulate interdisciplinary research, several cross-cutting centres have been established. These include the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research (WIBR) and the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB), research centres with a bricks-and-mortar existence, as well as research centres with a “virtual” presence that are wholly or partly represented in this submission (e.g. Institute for Structural Molecular Biology [ISMB], Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences [CoMPLEX], Institute for Healthy Ageing [IHA], Institute for Human Genetics and Health [IHGH], Centre for Cell and Molecular Dynamics [CCMD], etc.).

Download full text of the RA5a statement for Biological Sciences (pdf 272Kb)

Staff names below link to submitted publications (UCL staff only):

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