Introduction from the Director

Research at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit

Research at the Medical Research Council - Mitochondrial Biology Unit (MBU) is focussed on the involvement of mitochondria and their dysfunction in an ever-increasing range of human diseases, and even, perhaps, in the process of ageing.

Our Unit has three major scientific aims:

  • To understand the fundamental processes taking place in mitochondria
  • To understand the involvement of these processes in human diseases
  • To exploit knowledge of these fundamental processes for the development of new therapies to treat human diseases

We have eight independent research groups (described on this website). Their activities are focussed on understanding the fundamental biochemical and biological processes which occur in mitochondria. Via collaborations with clinical colleagues in several countries, we are building on our fundamental knowledge to try to understand how mitochondrial dysfunction leads to human disease. In addition, we are engaged in collaborations with pharmaceutical companies, to exploit our fundamental knowledge to generate new therapies.

The MBU occupies spacious modern laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, with access to further large-scale facilities as required for our research. We share our building with the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research which like the MBU is part of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine (CIMR), and this proximity has helped us to develop excellent relations with both CIMR's clinical and non-clinical scientists, and with other clinical scientists in the School of Clinical Medicine. The building is part of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is expanding rapidly into the largest Biomedical campus in Europe. The most recent additions are the Cambridge Research Institute and the Institute of Metabolic Science. Construction currently in progress includes buildings that will house Papworth Hospital and the global research headquarters of AstraZeneca. Close-by is the world famous MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), where some of the roots of our present Unit lie, and we enjoy close contacts and share collaborations with our colleagues there. Hence, our Unit is an integral part of the wider academic community of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

As a University MRC Unit, we are closely integrated into the academic community of Cambridge University. Our members are all University employees and I hold the position of Research Professor of Mitochondrial Medicine at the University of Cambridge. Some members of our Unit are College Fellows and participate in teaching undergraduate students. However, our most important relationship with the student body at Cambridge University is in supervising the research of the post-graduate students at our Unit. We have a substantial graduate student body of 30-40 members, who are enrolled as Ph D (or occasionally as M Phil) students at the University. We are enthusiastic about and committed to mentoring and supervising our students to the highest possible standards. To a significant extent, our success depends on their success. Our student body has close interactions with equivalent groups on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (especially in the LMB), and in other Cambridge institutions, for example the Sanger Institute and the Babraham Institute. Hence, we support and encourage our post-graduate students to lead full and active scientific lives.

Although scientific endeavour and success in research are the main reasons why we enjoy working at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, the beauty of the city and the University of Cambridge, and the cultural and social activities of the University, provide additional important dimensions. All our post-graduate students are members of Cambridge Colleges, and many Colleges now provide opportunities for post-doctoral scientists to become associated with them also. The Colleges themselves provide social contact and routes into cultural activities, for example into music and drama. So, if you are eligible to become a post-graduate student, or if you want to pursue post-doctoral research in an exciting field of biology, at the cutting edge of a new and rapidly developing area of biomedical research, then please explore our website, and do get into contact with us. And for those of you with a more general interest in the mitochondrion and its role in human disease, whether you are a member of the public, a school or college student, or a university undergraduate, we hope that you will find our website helpful and informative, and gain enjoyment and benefit from knowing more about both us and our science.

Thank you for visiting our website.

Massimo Zeviani