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UoA 5 Biological Sciences

From the understanding of precisely how neurons grow and the fundamental processes that underlie cancer development; to exploring the genetics of orang-utans, elephants, pandas and other endangered species, our leading cutting edge research in the biological sciences is reflected in a GPA of 3.23 and a UK ranking of 13th. A distinctive feature of this unit is that 60% of our research has been deemed ‘outstanding’ for its impact in terms of its reach and significance. We rank 1st for GPA when compared to the other institutions in the GW4 and when ranked on 4* research power make the top 10 in the UK.

Quality level 4 3 2 1 UC
Overall 42.0% 42.0% 14.0% 1.0% 1.0%
Outputs 31.1% 45.0% 20.3% 2.2% 1.4%
Impact 60.0% 40.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Environment 62.5% 37.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
About the REF

Biosciences, based in the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, is ranked in the top 100 global universities for life sciences by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University ARWU. There are three Fellows of The Royal Society, including the Nobel Laureate Robert Huber. Recent developments include:

  • Cancer Research UK Centre (2010)
  • Medical Research Council Group (MRC Professorship) (2010)
  • European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI) (2011)
  • Ser Cymru (Star Wales) Research Group (Ser Cymru Chair) 2013

Due to the establishment of ECSCRI and the Ser Cymru Group, a substantial number of Early Career appointments have been made. There are many on-going successful collaborations with national and international organisations, including the Chinese Academy of Science, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Welsh Water, Riken Brain Science Institute and the Japan Science & Technology Agency.

Future research will build on the key initiatives established in the REF period and will include: development of a cancer stem cell platform for drug development, investigations of pancreatic stellate cells secreting a cancer-promoting matrix and investigations of the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in depression.

Case studies

Steve Ormerod and Ed Milliband

Influencing policy on river conservation and management

Our approaches to analysing and modelling water systems have led to a world-leading discovery showing change on upland river ecosystems.


Conserving endangered species

Our data driven conservation strategies are saving the lives of orangutans, elephants and pandas.

Research themes

Research works spans four major themes:

Molecular BiosciencesFocuses on the molecular mechanisms underpinning biological function.
NeurosciencePursues a broad range of neuroscience research, spanning molecular, through cellular and systems to behavioural neuroscience.
Organisms and EnvironmentAims to understand the ecological, behavioural and genetic consequences of environmental change on biodiversity at all levels.
Pathophysiology and RepairFocuses on molecular disease mechanisms and the processes that drive repair and regeneration, spanning biochemistry, cell biology, molecular genetics and signal transduction.

Centres and groups

Cancer Research UK CentreEstablished in Cardiff in 2010 as a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Cardiff University, Velindre NHS Trust and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. Example grant: 5 year programme grant to Clarke (CRUK).
European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI)Established in 2011 to explore the 'Cancer Stem Cell' hypothesis and create new collaborations both across the University and with UK and international partners. Example grant: 5 year programme grant to Smalley (CRUK).
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)Established in 2011 with the objective of becoming an internationally-recognised centre of excellence in the field of neuroscience and mental health. Example grants: Wellcome Trust Strategic Award (Crunelli, Harwood, Li), Wellcome Trust Programme Grants (Crunelli and Davies), MRC Programme Grants (Fox and Dunnett).
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE)Established in 2011 and its vision is to provide a new basis for sustainability science, aiming to push the boundaries of traditional sustainability research and finding solutions to the challenges of diminishing resources and climate change. Example grant: NERC Biodiversity Thematic Programme Grant to Durance, Ormerod, Bruford, Vaughan and Weightman.

Overall ranking

Pos. Institution GPA
1Institute of Cancer Research: Royal Cancer Hospital3.55
2University of Dundee3.50
3University of Edinburgh3.44

10University of Sussex3.28
11Birkbeck College3.25
11University College London3.25
13Cardiff University3.23
14University of Birmingham3.20
15University of Leeds3.19
16University of St Andrews3.16
16University of Leicester3.16

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