MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Rory Duncan Research Group (Affiliate)

Molecular organisation of secretory machineries

Rory Duncan
Professor Rory Duncan - Senior Academic Lead for Strategy, Heriot-Watt University

Research in a Nutshell 

Rory Duncan is founding Head of the Institute of Biological chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at heriot-Watt University, applying advances in EPS to life science challenges. Rory’s particular research interests are in the molecular underpinnings of membrane fusion in regulated secretion and autophagy. He is PI of the Edinburgh super-resolution imaging consortium (ESRIC,; THE Research project of the Year 2017) with support from MRC/BBSRC/EPSRC and the Wellcome Trust, developing and applying super-resolution imaging modalities. Rory is Co-I on the EPSRC ‘Proteus’ Interdisciplinary Research Centre and Coordinator of the EU ‘Catacure’ project; both develop non-invasive photonic theranostics. He is Co-I on an MRC-funded Discovery award developing next generation droplet sequencing. Rory’s work spans many disciplines and he has led publications in leading biology, chemistry, engineering and physics journals, and holds multiple patents. Rory sits on and is ad hoc Chair of STFC Science Board, the principal scientific advisory committee providing strategic oversight on all research activities for that Council, and is part of the Accelerator International Strategic Review Panel, shaping strategy for the next 25 years. Rory also sits on many international advisory or funding panels and is on the international Editorial Board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He is an award-winning and passionate advocate for public engagement with research and is the University Lead Academic in this area.



Professor Rory Duncan Senior Academic Lead for Strategy, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Alison Dun Post-doctoral Imaging specialist
Dr Tushar Choudhary PDRA
Dr Amy Davies PDRA
Mr Adrian Garcia PhD student
Ms Allende Miguelez-Crespo PhD student


Key Publications

  • Glyoxal as an alternative to to PFA in immunostaining and nanoscopy Katharina N. Richter1,2+, Natalia H. Revelo1,§4+, Katharina J. Seitz1,3, Martin S. Helm1,3, Deblina Sarkar5, Rebecca Saleeb6, Elisa D’Este7, Marcel Lauterbach8, Eva Wagner9, Christian Vogl10, Diana F. Lazaro11, Frank Richter12, Javier Coy Vegara13, Giovanna Coceano14, Ed Boyden5, Rory R. Duncan6, Stefan W. Hell7, Stephan E. Lehnart9, Tobias Moser10, Tiago Outeiro11, Peter Rehling12, Blanche Schwappach13, Ilaria Testa14, Bolek Zapiec15, Silvio O. Rizzoli1,2* EMBO Journal 2017 Nov 16. pii: e201695709. doi: 10.15252/embj.201695709
  • SAF-A regulates interphase chromosome structure through oligomerisation with chromatin-associated RNAs’ Nozowa, R-S, Boteva, L, Soares, DC, Naughton, C, Dun, AR, Buckle, A, Ranashoye, B, Bruton, PC, Saleeb, RS, Arnedo, M, Duncan RR, Maciver, SK and Gilbert N. Cell 2017 Jun 15;169(7):1214-1227.e18. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.029
  • Navigation through the Plasma Membrane Molecular Landscape Shapes Random Organelle Movement. Dun AR, Lord GJ, Wilson RS, Kavanagh DM, Cialowicz KI, Sugita S, Park S, Yang L, Smyth AM, Papadopulos A, Rickman C, Duncan RR. Curr Biol. 2017 Feb 6;27(3):408-414. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.002.
  • Li, C, Faulkner-Jones, A, Dun, AR, Jin, J, Chen, P, Xing, Y, Yang, Z, Zhibo Li, Shu, W, *, Liu, D, and Duncan, RR. A Rapid-formed Supramolecular Polypeptide-DNA Hydrogel for in-situ Multi-layer 3D Bio-printing. Angewandte Int Chem, 54(13): 3829–4123 (2015)
  • Kavanagh, D.M., Smyth, A.M., Martin, K.J., Dun, A., Brown, E.R., Gordon, S., Smillie, K.J., Chamberlain, L.H., Wilson, R.S., Yang, L., Lu, W., Cousin, M.A., Rickman, C., Duncan, R.R.
  • A molecular toggle after exocytosis sequesters the presynaptic syntaxin1a molecules involved in prior vesicle fusion (2014) Nat Commun. 2014 Dec 17;5:5774


  • Professor Silvio Rizzoli, Gottingen 
  • Professor Nick Gilbert, IGMM
  • Professor Gabriel Lord, Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh Biosciences Ltd
  • Professor Seth Grant, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Peter Brophy, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Bob Chow, University of Southern California

Partners and Funders

  • Wellcome Trust
  • MRC
  • Medical Research Scotland
  • Leica Microsystems


Technology Expertise

Super-resolution optical microscopy; imaging spectroscopy; molecular biology; image data analysis and signal processing.