Professor Wolf Reik, FRS, FMedSci Appointed Director of the Babraham Institute


The Board of Trustee Directors is delighted to announce that, following an open and international search, Professor Wolf Reik has been appointed as the Institute’s Director. Professor Reik has held the position of Acting Director since May 2020 following the tragic death of Professor Michael Wakelam.

Professor Reik is an internationally renowned expert in the field of epigenetics who has led the Institute’s research programme in this area since 2008.

Professor Peter Rigby FRS, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, said: I am very pleased indeed that Professor Reik has agreed to become Director of the Institute. He is a world-class scientist, internationally renowned for his work in epigenetics, who has been at the Institute for over 30 years. I know that he will provide the essential leadership and stability that will be required during the uncertain times that we all face and will guide the Institute forward to continued success in every aspect of its mission.

Speaking on behalf of the Institute’s strategic funder, Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), a part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), commented: On behalf of BBSRC, I am pleased to congratulate Professor Reik on his appointment as the permanent 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.

Professor 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. The establishment and maintenance of cell identity by epigenetic modifications to the genome, and conversely, the process of cell reprogramming back towards a stem cell identity and the degradation of cell identity by age-related epigenetic changes are core interests of his research.

Professor Reik commented: I am pleased and honoured to be able to take on this responsibility. I am also grateful for the support I have received across the Institute, from our Board of Trustees, the Babraham Research Campus, and BBSRC. 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.

Professor Reik obtained his MD from the University of Hamburg in 1985 where he 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). 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. 

Published on: 25.03.21

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