Babraham Institute welcomes new group leaders

Dr Ian McGough is the first of four new group leaders to join the Babraham Institute in positions split across, and in some cases bridging, the Institute's Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes.

New group leader appointments at the Babraham Institute, showing Dr Ian McGough (top left), Dr Teresa Rayon (top right), Dr Sophie Trefely (bottom left) and Dr Philipp Voigt (bottom right)

Dr McGough (pictured top left) will soon be joined by Dr Teresa Rayon (pictured top right) from the Francis Crick Institute, Dr Sophie Trefely (bottom left) from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University and Dr Philipp Voigt (bottom right) from the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology.

Interim Institute Director and Head of the ISP Signalling Programme Dr Simon Cook said “I am delighted to welcome all of our new group leaders to the Institute. I am excited about the invigoration this will provide for the Institute and to see these wonderful scientists and their research projects starting in 2021 and 2022. Drs Trefely and Rayon Alonso will be bridging the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes, an appointment that reflects the collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit that we have here.”

Dr Ian McGough - Signalling programme appointment
Dr McGough’s research seeks to uncover how cells communicate with each other to create and maintain healthy tissues and organs, in particular focusing on how morphogen signalling pathways, crucial regulators of stem cell maintenance during adulthood, function at the molecular level and how stem cell renewal declines as we age. As well as providing a blueprint for tissue formation during development Wnts and other morphogen proteins also maintain healthy tissue microarchitecture and function in adulthood. His work combines in vitro molecular biology and in vivo cell and developmental biology techniques in Drosophila to unravel the intricacies of signalling pathways and the different molecular interactions that happen during cell-to-cell communication.

Ian’s research has expanded our understanding of how the morphogen Wnt is secreted from cells and diffuses to create a gradient that triggers different transcription programmes in the surrounding cells. He was recognised as the UK Young Cell Biologist of the Year by the British Society for Cell Biology for his work in the lab of Peter Cullen at the University of Bristol (described in Harterink et al. NCB 2011 and McGough et al. Nature Communications 2018).

After moving to Jean-Paul Vincent’s lab at the Francis Crick Institute, Ian turned his attention to unresolved question in the field of Wnt signalling; how the hydrophobic lipid part of Wnt is shielded after secretion by the cell to allow it to fulfil its signalling role (McGough et al. Nature 2020), and its role in establishing planar cell polarity during development (Yu et al. Developmental Cell 2020).

Dr McGough said “I am thrilled to be starting my research group at the Babraham Institute. I am looking forward to getting to know my new colleagues and establishing collaborations. The Institute is the perfect home for my lab to investigate both how Wnt signalling works at the cellular and molecular level and the interplay between Wnt signalling and ageing at the organismal level.”

Dr Cook welcomed Ian as he joins his new colleagues in the Signalling research programme: “Ian’s work has had a huge impact in the field of Wnt signalling. He has not shied away from tackling complex questions using sophisticated and multifaceted approaches. We are looking forward to welcoming Ian to the programme and learning from his expertise.”


Dr Philipp Voigt - Epigenetics programme appointment

Dr Philipp Voigt will join the Institute’s Signalling programme in October 2021.

Dr Voigt studies the molecules involved in establishing, interpreting, and erasing the epigenetic marks that control the accurate and timely expression of genes during development. Speaking about his new position, he said: “I’m delighted to be joining the Institute. I first heard about the Babraham Institute in the early days of my PhD work on phosphoinositide 3-kinases. Ever since, I have known Babraham as a place that drives excellent science, making important contributions to both signalling and epigenetics.”


Dr Teresa Rayon - Joint appointment across the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes

Dr Teresa Rayon will join the Institute in early 2022.

Dr Rayon seeks to understand the regulatory and dynamic processes that control developmental timing across and within species. Her ultimate goal is understand the impact of changes in the precisely orchestrated timing of development on lifespan. She commented: “The supportive and friendly environment, the focus on epigenetics and signalling, and the state-of-the art facilities at the Babraham make the Institute the best place for me to develop my programme of work. Even though I will join in February 2022, the team at Babraham has made sure that I am involved already in the institute activities, which has amplified my feeling of belonging. I can’t wait to join the team!”


Dr Sophie Trefely - Joint appointment across the Signalling and Epigenetics research programmes

Dr Sophie Trefely will join the Institute in early 2022.

Dr Trefely’s work focuses on signalling role of metabolites in diseases of aging including diabetes, obesity and cancer. Her line of investigation promises important insights into the control of epigenetic marks that depend on specific metabolites. Speaking about her appointment, Dr Trefely said: “I am incredibly excited to join the Babraham Institute and to start my lab exploring metabolic regulation in the nucleus and its implications in ageing. I look forward to the opportunity to learn from the outstanding researchers in complimentary areas of epigenetics, signalling and immunology and to share my passion for metabolism.”

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