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Unit Mission

The MRC Toxicology Unit mission is to deliver mechanistic toxicology research, with a particular focus on the study of the links between exposure to chemicals, radiation and therapeutic agents including new classes of biologics, molecular initiating events and adverse outcome pathways.  The Unit uses a range of systems-based approaches to address key questions in this area. The Unit continues to develop the translation of its basic research into clinically and public health-relevant outcomes.


Our Research Themes



Mechanisms of gene expression control of toxic exposure

Professor Anne Willis, Post-transcriptional control of gene expression following toxic injury

Dr Ritwick Sawarkar, Chromatin control of environmental stress response

Dr Mathew Van de Pette, Epigenetic mechanisms of toxicity







Adverse outcomes mechanistically linked to gene-environment interaction

Prof Kiran Patil, Microbiome mediated toxicity of drugs and other xenobiotics

Dr Vito Mennella, Molecular mechanisms of airway protection

Dr Sarah Aitken, Molecular consequences of DNA damage and dysregulation

Prof Marion MacFarlane/ Prof Anne Willis, Mechanisms of fibre toxicity





Molecular determinants of mitochondrial function and cell death

Prof Marion MacFarlane, Molecular mechanisms of cell death

Dr L. Miguel Martins, Mitochondria and cell death regulation following toxic injury








Cell death is a fundamental cellular response that plays a crucial role both during development and in the removal of unwanted or damaged cells following stress, injury or infection. Understanding the mechanisms of cell death, including the crucial role played by mitochondria in determining cell fate, is necessary to obtain a complete understanding of the toxicity associated with exposure to pharmaceuticals and environmental agents. Multicellular organisms actively dispose of cells that are in excess or potentially dangerous through programmed cell death, where mitochondria act as key controllers. Understanding the relationship between these elements is crucial to identify key determinants of cell viability following toxic insult, in healthy and diseased individuals, but also under conditions of stress or increased metabolic demand.


Inflammatory responses and immune regulation

Dr Mike Chapman, Understanding and mediating the toxicity of CAR-T cell therapy

Dr James Thaventhiran, Defining the mechanism of toxicity from loss of immune checkpoints








The immune system is a point of vulnerability to toxic insult and an important mediator of the effects that result from exposure to environmental, occupational or therapeutic challenges. Immunotherapies are highly effective for treating infections, autoimmunity and certain types of cancers, but these treatments can be improved. By understanding how the immune system responds to immunotherapies and why toxicity can develop, interventions can be developed to improve patient responses to treatment.