Professor Wolf Reik FRS appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute

 Professor Wolf Reik. Courtesy of Keith Heppell and the Cambridge Independent.

Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed Acting Director of the Babraham Institute with immediate effect, following the sad loss of Professor Michael Wakelam at the end of March.

Professor Reik is an internationally renowned expert in the field of epigenetics and has led the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme since 2008. He has been the Institute’s Associate Director since 2004.

Professor Peter Rigby, FRS, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, said: “I am delighted to announce that the Institute Board has appointed Professor Wolf Reik FRS as the Acting Director of the Babraham Institute. Professor Reik is a world-class scientist, internationally renowned for his work in epigenetics, who has been at the Institute for over 30 years. The BBSRC fully support the Board's appointment, which will ensure the Institute continues to be strongly led, building on the excellent work of Professor Michael Wakelam. I know that Wolf will provide much needed leadership and stability during the uncertain times that we all face.”

Professor Reik commented: “I am really honoured by this appointment; I look forward to working with everyone at the Institute, the Campus and with BBSRC. After Michael’s sad death, my primary aim is to bring us back to our labs in a safe and considerate fashion, and to jointly tackle the opportunities and challenges for the science of the Institute going forward strongly into the future.”

Professor Reik’s research centres on understanding the role of epigenetics (non-sequence altering modifications to DNA or chromatin that regulate gene expression) in establishing cell fate and identity during mammalian development and also the process of epigenetic reprogramming. The research interests of his lab span understanding the epigenetic processes governing the earliest steps of development, how pluripotency is maintained in stem cells and conversely how cell identity is established during differentiation. More recently the lab is interested in how the epigenome degrades during ageing, and whether there are ways of reversing this decay. They have developed new technologies for single cell ‘multi-omics’ sequencing which allows unprecedented insights into cell fate changes during development or ageing. Professor Reik enjoys collaborating with scientists in the Institute and outside, and leads a Wellcome-funded consortium that studies cell fate decisions during mouse gastrulation and organ development.

Professor Reik 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). Professor 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. 

Professor Reik obtained his MD from the University of Hamburg in 1985. He undertook his thesis work with Rudolf Jaenisch in Hamburg, followed by postdoctoral work with Azim Surani at the Institute of Animal Physiology, now the Babraham Institute. During this time, he became a Fellow of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine which provided funding to start his own independent research group (in 1987).

Image: Professor Wolf Reik. Courtesy of Keith Heppell and the Cambridge Independent.

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