Faculty of Medical Sciences

Cell Division Biology


Major research themes

Our mission is to understand cell division in eukaryotes at the molecular, cellular and organism level: to determine how its dysfunction leads to cancer, developmental defects, infertility and reproductive ageing: and to use this knowledge to develop new preventative and therapeutic strategies.


  • Regulation of mitosis and meiosis
  • Structure and function of cell division proteins
  • The interface between cell division and epigenetics
  • Asymmetric cell division
  • Drug discovery
  • Telomeres, DNA replication and repair


We are a highly interactive and international group of researchers who focus on a core theme, eukaryotic Cell Division Biology, but approach it from different perspectives using a variety of techniques (including cell biology, structural biology, genetics, biochemistry, drug discovery, insights from patient care) and model systems (mammalian cells in culture, human and mouse oocytes, nematode worms, and yeast).

Subject areas

Chromosome segregation in mitosis
Chromosome biology of oocytes
Molecular basis of meiotic chromosome synapsis
Structure and function of cyclin-dependent protein kinases and histone kinases
Cyclin-dependent kinases in control of the cell cycle and initiation of transcription
Histone modifications during cell division
Epigenetic inheritance through cell division
Mitotic checkpoint signalling
Cell polarity and asymmetric cell division in embryos
Telomeres, DNA replication and repair

Technical approaches

Live and fixed cell fluorescence microscopy
Cell microinjection
Cell culture and transfection
Recombinant protein expression and purification
Biochemistry and biophysics
X-ray crystallography
Structure-aided drug design
Yeast genetics
Genetic, yeast two-hybrid, RNAi and small molecule screens

Model Systems

In vitro reconstitution; cultured mammalian cells; mouse and human oocytes; C.elegans embryos; Drosophila embryos and neuroblasts; S. cerevisiae (budding yeast)

Key collaborations

Multiple collaborative projects are carried out within the Group. We also have links with other laboratories at Newcastle University, including cross-Faculty links with the School of Chemistry, and links with scientists in the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology who are investigating microbial cell division.

External collaborators include scientists at institutions in the UK (Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Oxford, Sussex and the Francis Crick Institute), Germany (Giessen University), the Netherlands (Leiden and Utrecht Universities). Spain (CNIO, Madrid; Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona; and the University of Seville), Sweden (Karolinska Institute), the USA (University of Pennslvania, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, University of California Davies), Australia (Monash University, University of South Australia), and China (Life Sciences Institute at Zhejiang University).

Developing researchers

Early career training was a key motivation for the formation of the Cell Division Biology Research Group. Many students are cross-mentored by group members and our senior members act as both formal and informal mentors for junior investigators.

A weekly research progress and journal club meeting provides a dynamic environment in which to discuss current research with a diverse group of colleagues interested in cell division from different perspectives, to critically evaluate the literature, and to develop contacts with members of other labs.

Colleagues from other labs are also welcome to join our meetings, providing an excellent venue to find support for cell division-related projects that may not be "mainstream" in their own laboratories.

Impact and engagement

Group members have made ground-breaking discoveries in a number of areas of cell division biology, leading to patent approvals and publications in Science, eLIFE, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Communications, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Current Biology, PNAS, Development Cell, and Journal of Cell Biology, among others.

Our members have links with a number of UK and US-based biotech companies, including research and consultancy agreements, patent licensing, Board membership, and a Drug Discovery Alliance with Astex and Cancer Research Technology to conduct structure-based drug design.

Members have given numerous media interviews and participated in press conferences to raise awareness of maternal reproductive ageing, served on advisory panels for the UK and US government, and serve on review boards for a number of funding agencies.

Other engagement activities include the development of a website to help would-be parents to navigate fertility treatments and provide information on the effects of age on fertility, charity events, children's science talks (including at the British Science Festival), lab visits, and a collaboration with artist Ed Carter and Cancer Research UK to create an installation featuring structural biology and drug design.

Related websites

Staff List

Theme leader

Professor Jonathan Higgins

Dr Owen Davies
Wellcome Trust and Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7371

Professor Jane Endicott
Prof of Cancer Structural Biology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4422

Professor Mary Herbert
Professor of Reproductive Biology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 213 8213

Professor Jonathan Higgins
Professor of Eukaryotic Molecular Cell Biology and Deputy Dean of Research and Innovation

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7431

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7244

Dr Mark Levasseur
Senior Research Associate

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3481

Dr Suzanne Madgwick
Wellcome Trust Career Re-entry Fellow

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8723

Professor Martin Noble
Prof of Biom Struct & Anticanc Drug Des

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4466

Telephone: +44(0)1912088143

NHS Trust staff

Mary Herbert is an Honorary Consultant Clinical Scientist with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust