Scientists retrain to join fight against disease

Researchers from computer science, physics and maths are turning their hand to biology in a bid to solve some of the biggest challenges in medicine.

The University’s Medical Research Council Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine has partnered with the School of Informatics on a £2 million training programme for early career scientists.

The scheme is recruiting talented scientists with no formal training in the life sciences to help solve the most pressing questions in biomedicine and become future research leaders.

The science that will have the greatest future impact on society will require multiple disciplines, and for scientists from different backgrounds to understand and work together. Edinburgh is already a hotbed of interdisciplinary research. We are stepping up efforts to break down barriers between disciplines to tackle the most challenging questions in medicine.

Professor Chris PontingCross-Disciplinary Fellowship (XDF) Programme Director

Big data

Researchers in supercomputing, artificial intelligence and particle physics are set to apply their skills to probe how genes are switched on and off, and how this contributes to diseases such as cancer.

They will also investigate how machine learning techniques can be used to draw meaningful insights from large medical data sets, such as DNA sequence information and electronic health records. This could aid understanding of complex diseases such as diabetes.


Four scientists will begin the four-year training programme in August 2018. They will spend the first year in training sessions to facilitate their move into biomedicine and help determine the direction of their future research.

My ambitions are that my research has direct and positive knock-on effects, not only on the fundamental research performed at the IGMM, but importantly also to lead to more effective treatments for patients.

Dr Andrew PapanastasiouCross-Disciplinary Fellow, IGMM

The Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship (XDF) Programme is funded by the Medical Research Council and the University of Edinburgh.

Related links

XDF Programme

MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine

School of Informatics

Edinburgh Medical School