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MRC Toxicology Unit

Welcome to the MRC Toxicology Unit

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit is a leading International Research Institute within the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge. The Unit delivers mechanistic toxicology research, pursuing hypothesis-driven toxicological questions with a particular focus on the study of the causal links between exposure to endogenous and exogenous toxicants, molecular initiating events and adverse outcome pathways. The Unit's overall aims are to carry out pioneering research which leads to improved health and to train and mentor the next generation of toxicologists.


Professor Anne Willis is Director of the MRC Toxicology Unit.  Anne was appointed as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2015, and in 2017 awarded an OBE for services to biomedical sciences and supporting the careers of women scientists.

Professor Anne Willis OBE


Nature Communications featured article: Treatment of COVID-19 with remdesivir in the absence of humoral immunity: a case report

1 March 2021

A recently publised article from Dr. James Thaventhiran's group about the potential treatment effect of remedesvir in COVID-19 patients was chosen as a featured paper by Nature Communiactions. The scientific achivement is highlighted under the topic of "Microbiology and Infectious diseases" in the journal's January issue .

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Cryo-EM structural analysis reveals Caspase-8 catalytic domain architecture for co-ordinated control of cell fate

17 February 2021

Marion MacFarlane, MRC Investigator and Deputy Director at the MRC Toxicology Unit is the senior author of a new study published in Nature Communications which reveals how ‘Cryo-EM structural analysis of FADD:Caspase-8 complexes defines the catalytic dimer architecture for co-ordinated control of cell fate’. “The core FADD...

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Cooperation is key to success in microbial communities

12 January 2021

Dr Kiran Patil, Director of Research at the MRC Toxicology Unit is the senior author of a new study which shows how cooperation among bacterial species allows them to thrive as a community. This research is from the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Cambridge and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). "If...

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Remdesivir likely to be highly effective antiviral against SARS-CoV-2

14 December 2020

The drug remdesivir is likely to be a highly effective antiviral against SARS-CoV-2, according to a new study by a team of UK scientists. Writing in Nature Communications, the researchers describe giving the drug to a patient with COVID-19 and a rare immune disorder, and observing a dramatic improvement in his symptoms and...

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Dr Tim Allen awarded the 2020 LUSH Science Prize

12 November 2020

In silico models to predict human molecular initiating events: Congratulations to Dr Tim Allen who has been awarded the 2020 LUSH Science Prize for his research in collaboration with Unilever. More info. 20201029_142027.jpg dsc06230.jpg

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Researchers test a drug that may allow more cancer patients to benefit from immunotherapy in the future

3 November 2020

Immunotherapy can be a lifesaver for cancer patients, but some patients' tumours don't respond well to this treatment. However, researchers are encouraged by a recent clinical trial that suggests that it may be possible to expand immunotherapy to help more people in the future. Immunotherapy works by marshalling the body's...

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Medicines Safety (Toxicology) Research Fellowship Available in 2020. Cambridge UK

10 August 2020

The Cambridge Alliance on Medicines Safety Fixed-term: Funding for this post is available for 3 years The Cambridge Alliance on Medicines Safety (CAMS; ) is delighted to be able to offer a Junior Research Fellowship in epigenetic drug safety and...

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Congratulations to Kathryn Lilley, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics, who has been awarded an EMBO membership.

8 July 2020

Kathryn works closely with members of the Unit and will be based in the Gleeson building from November. Professor Kathryn Lilley has been elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in recognition of her high quality life science research. Speaking about her election, Kathryn said: “ I feel...

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Dr Tim Allen participates in "Through The Eyes Of Young Scientists" event

10 June 2020

Dr Tim Allen has recently participated in an event with Altertox Academy - " Through The Eyes of Young Scientists" where he answered questions about his career in Toxciology. The full article can be found here.

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Dr Miguel Martins has been quoted in two articles published by The Guardian linking air pollution and coronavirus

5 May 2020

Our Programme Leader, Dr Miguel Martins, has contributed to two articles written by The Guardian about the links between air pollution and coronavirus deaths: Preliminary study links air pollution to coronavirus deaths in England ​ Is air pollution making the coronavirus pandemic even more deadly?

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Marco Travaglio speaks to New Scientist about the group's work on COVID-19

5 May 2020

Marco Travaglio, PhD student in Dr Miguel Martin's research programme, has spoken about the COVID-19 research that they are conducting in an article published by New Scientist: ' Are you more likely to die of covid-19 if you live in a polluted area?' Marco has also been quoted in the Financial Times article: ' Academics...

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Yizhou Yu speaks on France 24 regarding the links between air pollution and COVID-19

28 April 2020

On the 27th April, Yizhou Yu, a student in Dr Miguel Martin's research programme, spoke on France 24 about the possible link between levels of air pollution and the severity of the COVID-19 illness. To watch the video on the France 24 website please click here.

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Dr James Thaventhiran joins Dr Nicholas Matheson for the CITIID's weekly COVID-19 update

21 April 2020

On the 16th April, Dr James Thaventhiran joined Dr Nicholas Matheson for the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease's (CITIID) weekly COVID-19 update. This talk, along with all other previous updates from the CITIID, can be found here. Details of the weekly webinar can be found here . Each...

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We are currently inviting applications for the following positions:

Position Closing Date
CAMS Research Fellowship in Epigenetics & Toxicology Wed, 12 May 2021
Research Laboratory Technician (Willis) Wed, 21 Apr 2021


Further details on each vacancy can be found our recruitment page.


Khalid AbdulJabbar, Shan E Ahmed Raza , Rachel Rosenthal , Mariam Jamal-Hanjani , Selvaraju Veeriah , Ayse Akarca, Tom Lund, David A Moore, Roberto Salgado, Maise Al Bakir , Luis Zapata, Crispin T Hiley , Leah Officer, Marco Sereno, Claire Rachel Smith, Sherene Loi, Allan Hackshaw, Teresa Marafioti, Sergio A Quezada, Nicholas McGranahanJohn Le Quesne, TRACERx Consortium; Charles Swanton, Yinyin Yuan. Geospatial Immune Variability Illuminates Differential Evolution of Lung Adenocarcinoma.  Nat Med. 2020 May 27. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-0900-x. Online ahead of print.


Roobol A, Roobol J, Smith ME, Carden MJ, Hershey JWB, Willis AE, Smales CM. Engineered transient and stable overexpression of translation factors eIF3i and eIF3c in CHOK1 and HEK293 cells gives enhanced cell growth associated with increased c-Myc expression and increased recombinant protein synthesis. Metab Eng. 2020 May;59:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2020.02.001. Epub 2020 Feb 13. PMID:32061967


Pizzinga M, Harvey RF, Garland GD, Mordue R, Dezi V, Ramakrishna M, Sfakianos A, Monti M, Mulroney TE, Poyry T, Willis AE. The cell stress response: extreme times call for post-transcriptional measures. Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2020 May;11(3):e1578. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1578. Epub 2019 Nov 21. Review. PMID: 31755249


Thaventhiran J.E.D. et al. Whole-genome sequencing of a sporadic primary immunodeficiency cohort. Nature, 2020, In press, publication date 4 May 2020


Zhang YZ, Brambilla C, Molyneaux PL, Rice A, Robertus JL, Jordan S, Lim E, Lang-Lazdunski L, Begum S, Dusmet M, Anikin V, Beddow E, Finch J, Asadi N, Popat S, Le Quesne J, Husain AN, Cookson WO, Moffatt MF, Nicholson AG. Presence of pleomorphic features but not growth patterns improves prognostic stratification of epithelioid malignant pleural mesothelioma by 2-tier nuclear grade. Histopathology. 2020 Apr 25. doi: 10.1111/his.14127....