Skip to main content

62 researchers across the UK are to receive a share of £12 million to pursue visionary bioscience research. From lessons in regeneration that we can learn from rejuvenating jellyfish to the effect sleep has on our genetic ageing, each of the projects will explore early-stage ideas at the frontiers of bioscience. Among the beneficiaries are three Rothamsted scientists working on cutting edge   

The investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Pioneer Awards enables the pursuit of unique ideas that challenge current thinking and paradigms or open up entirely novel areas of exploration altogether.

At Rothamsted, Dr. Michael Birkett has received funding as part of a joint study with the University of Edinburgh exploring whether vertebrates can communicate disease status through airborne chemical signalling. If it can be established that infected animal hosts can communicate disease status to other hosts, this could improve our understanding of poultry immunology and genetics and avian resistance to pathogens. 

Also at our Harpenden campus, Dr Jozsef Vuts is working with the University of Bristol to study electrostatic biophysical interactions between odour molecules and the antenna to explore the frontiers of insect olfaction. This will improve our understanding of crop plant-pest interactions and pollination ecology.  

And thirdly, Dr Christophe Lambing is using a multi-disciplinary approach to decipher the molecular mechanisms causing different patterns of genetic recombination between male and female germ cells in Arabidopsis plants, aimed at solving the mystery of heterochiasmy (a strong difference in recombination rates between the sexes).

 By drawing upon unconventional thinking and approaches, all the investigators funded by the BBSRC awards hope to make exciting discoveries with the potential to transform our understanding of the fundamental rules of life.

These newly funded investigations aim to radically change the way we think about important biological phenomena covering plant, microbial and animal sciences. 

Professor Guy Poppy, Interim Executive Chair at BBSRC, said: “Understanding the fundamental rules of life, such as the principles governing genetics, evolution and biological processes, is essential for advancing scientific knowledge. It is also imperative to societal progress.

“Many of the challenges faced by today's society, such as global food security, environmental sustainability and healthcare, are deeply rooted in biological processes. 

“BBSRC is committed to understanding the rules of life and by investing in cutting-edge discovery research through schemes such as the Pioneer Awards pilot, we are expanding the horizons of human knowledge while helping to unlock innovative bio-based solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.”



Dr Mike Birkett

Biological/Organic Chemist

Dr Jozsef Vuts

Chemical Ecologist


Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries in areas as diverse as crop management, statistical interpretation and soil health. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative approach to developing innovative farm practice.
Through independent research, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally, with economic impact estimated to exceed £3 bn in annual contribution to the UK economy. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and multiple partnerships.
Rothamsted is home to three unique National Bioscience Research Infrastructures which are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests to push back the frontiers of biology and deliver a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future. Through our investments, we build and support a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive community which delivers ground-breaking discoveries and develops bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges, such as sustainable food production, climate change, and healthy ageing.
As part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), we not only play a pivotal role in fostering connections that enable the UK’s world-class research and innovation system to flourish – we also have a responsibility to enable the creation of a research culture that is diverse, resilient, and engaged.
BBSRC proudly forges interdisciplinary collaborations where excellent bioscience has a fundamental role. We pioneer approaches that enhance the equality, diversity, and inclusion of talent by investing in people, infrastructure, technologies, and partnerships on a global scale.


The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.