Some see a fossil. We see ways to tackle disease epidemics and climate change.
The University of Bath has recently established The Milner Centre for Evolution, a world-leading hub bringing together interdisciplinary research groups with a shared motivation to unleash the power of evolutionary science.
Researchers at the Milner Centre will ask some of the Big Questions in evolutionary science and apply what they find to address some of the major national and global challenges facing us in the 21st century. Their research will make a real difference: from how we prescribe antibiotics, to how we face the impending challenges of disease epidemics and climate change, particularly its threat to global biodiversity.
It’s already making a difference. We have applied fundamental knowledge on the evolution of genes to advance our ability to diagnose diseases, including cancer, and to improve gene based therapies. Our research into the evolution of low toxin MRSA strains is enabling better targeted treatments to help fight MRSA infections. And it was directly through our research into the evolution of gene expression that we found the missing “holy grail” of human stem cells. Human stem cells that are capable of becoming any other kind of cell in the body have previously only been acquired and cultivated with difficulty. We have now developed a method to detect such pluripotent cells in a cell culture and preserve them in the laboratory. The potential for transforming regenerative medicine is enormous.
The Milner Centre was made possible by the largest ever donation to the University, received from one of our graduates, Dr Jonathan Milner, founder of the Evolution Education Trust, and co-founder and Deputy Chairman of Abcam, one of the major suppliers of antibodies for scientific research.
Dr Milner is a long-term philanthropist to higher education with a particular interest in evolution. He helped establish and fund GEVOteach, a research initiative at the University which aims to improve the teaching of genetics and evolution in primary and secondary schools in the UK. He is currently funding three PhD students at the University and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University for his services to Life Sciences in 2013.
Jonathan Milner said “Evolution is something I’m really passionate about. It is too important to keep just for the academic community – I feel it’s a moral responsibility for scientists to share our knowledge with the rest of the world. It is not just about the history of life on Earth but about us, and how we came to be as we are, touching on issues of philosophy as much as biology. Applied evolutionary research can help us develop better health policies, advance medical treatments and even improve public health messaging.”
“No other world centre combines outreach with research and so our Centre will not simply be providing world-class evolution research, but will also engage the public in that research so that everyone can learn and benefit from this knowledge.”
“Bath is where my scientific career began and with the world-leading research into evolution already going on there, it is the natural place to choose for this Centre.”
Dr Jonathan Milner, founder of the Evolution Education Trust, and co-founder and Deputy Chairman of Abcam