Skip to main content

Professor Austin Smith FRS will join the University of Exeter to take up the leadership post at the LSI.

World-leading stem cell researcher appointed new Director of Living Systems Institute

One of the world’s most influential and renowned stem cell researchers has been appointed as the new Director of the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute.

Professor Austin Smith FRS will join the University of Exeter to take up the leadership post at the LSI, a £52 million world-class, next generation collaborative research community.

Professor Smith was until recently the Director of the University of Cambridge’s Stem Cell Institute, which he founded in 2006. He previously served as Director at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Genome Research, which he transformed into the Institute for Stem Cell Research.

Professor Smith is a Medical Research Council Professor, a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), and a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and of London.

In 2010 he was awarded the Louis Jeantet Prize and in 2016 he received the International Society for Stem Cell Research Award for Innovation.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Smith said: “I am very excited to be joining the University of Exeter. The idea behind the Living Systems Institute is inspiring. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to contribute to the vision of extending science beyond traditional boundaries.”

Professor Smith’s research expertise centres around stem cell biology, and in particular embryonic stem cells. In the early embryo a small group of cells acquire the ability to make all cell types of the animal – a property known as pluripotency.

Pluripotency is short-lived in the embryo but can be maintained in the laboratory by derivation of embryonic stem cells.

Professor Smith’s pioneering research aims at uncovering the principles underlying establishment of pluripotent stem cells in different mammalian species and at understanding how to direct their differentiation into specific cell types, with applications in human and animal medicine

Professor Neil Gow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Transfer said: “I share the enthusiasm and excitement of all my colleagues here at Exeter in warmly welcoming Austin Smith as our new Director for our Living Systems Institute.

“Austin’s exceptional scientific record and vision will enable us to realise the shared ambitions we have to drive the institute forward as one of the most exciting interdisciplinary research facilities studying biological and biomedical processes.”

The Living Systems Institute, which opened in 2016, espouses a new approach to the analysis of biological processes. It takes a holistic view of how cells, tissues and whole organisms operate and, importantly, what happens to them when they succumb to diseases.

A key approach of the Living Systems Institute is the application of the techniques of mathematics, predictive modelling, control engineering and physics to understand, in detail biological design and the origins and progression of disease.

The LSI is an interdisciplinary endeavour that involves engineers, physicists, mathematicians, cell biologists, molecular geneticists and developmental biologists who pool their expertise to address shared research questions. Collectively, LSI scientists build upon and extend the University’s existing strengths.

Professor Janice Kay CBE, Provost of the University of Exeter added: “We are delighted that Professor Austin Smith will be joining us to take forward this exciting new phase of development for our leading Living-Systems Institute.

“The LSI is a key initiative which is aligned to our strategic objectives to be a global 100 research leader within a community of the most talented and creative minds.”

Date: 30 September 2019