Sebastian Nevols

Head of Cellular Genetics elected Fellow of the Royal Society

Sarah Teichmann is recognised for her pioneering computational biology and genomics work, leading to the Human Cell Atlas initiative

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Dr Sarah Teichmann has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK’s most prestigious scientific organisation. Announced today (29th April), the Fellowship recognises her outstanding contribution to scientific understanding, through computational biology and genomics. This includes her role as co-founder and co-leader of the international Human Cell Atlas consortium initiative to map every cell type in the human body.

Head of the Cellular Genetics Programme at the Sanger Institute, Dr Teichmann develops computational methods to explore genomics and biology. She has created methods to understand biophysical principles of protein assembly and is a pioneer in large-scale single cell genomics. Her discoveries have transformed our understanding of fundamental biological pathways in health and disease. She is also Director of Research at the Cavendish Laboratory, at the University of Cambridge.

In 2016, Sarah co-founded the international Human Cell Atlas consortium, which uses single cell genomics and spatial technologies to create a comprehensive high resolution map of the human body. This ‘Google map’ of the human body will provide unprecedented understanding of human tissues in both health and disease – from how the body first develops, to understanding how the immune system responds to viruses or cancer. The Human Cell Atlas could also revolutionise healthcare by driving new technologies for disease diagnosis, and enable development of new treatments and advances in regenerative medicine.

“I am delighted and humbled to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. This great honour is a testimony to the dedicated work, skills and creativity of my team, colleagues and collaborators, both here at the Sanger Institute and elsewhere, who have contributed to our exciting technological and biological discoveries. We hope that understanding organs and tissues at single cell resolution will not only reveal fascinating insights into human biology, but also transform our understanding of disease and healthcare.”

Dr Sarah Teichmann, Head of Cellular Genetics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Dr Teichmann is amongst 61 exceptional scientists from around the world who have been elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society. They join an existing membership of approximately 1600 of the most distinguished scientists, including around 80 Nobel Laureates. One of the founding principles of the Royal Society is to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity, and previous Fellows include Edward Jenner, who invented vaccination, Sir Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, and Sir Robert Ross, who demonstrated that malaria parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes.

“Sarah’s election to the Royal Society is richly deserved. Her commitment to understanding the human body using large scale single cell and computational methods, together with her passion for bringing people and communities together has led to the global Human Cell Atlas consortium. This huge collaborative network is revealing insights into human disease including cancer, auto-immune disease, respiratory disease and even virus targets and will have profound implications for diagnostics and therapeutic development.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute

“At this time of global crisis, the importance of scientific thinking, and the medicines, technologies and insights it delivers, has never been clearer. Our Fellows and Foreign Members are central to the mission of the Royal Society, to use science for the benefit of humanity.

“While election to the Fellowship is a recognition of exceptional individual contributions to the sciences, it is also a network of expertise that can be drawn on to address issues of societal, and global significance. This year’s Fellows and Foreign Members have helped shape the 21st century through their work at the cutting-edge of fields from human genomics, to climate science and machine learning.

“It gives me great pleasure to celebrate these achievements, and those yet to come, and welcome them into the ranks of the Royal Society.”

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society

More information

About the Royal Society

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Its Foreign Members are drawn from the rest of the world. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process based on excellence in science. Each candidate is considered on his or her own merits and can be proposed from any sector of the scientific community. Every effort is made to encourage nominations of women candidates and candidates from the emerging disciplines.

There are approximately 1,700 Fellows and Foreign Members, including around 70 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 Fellows and up to 10 Foreign Members are elected from a group of around 800 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship.

Honorary Fellowship is intended for those who have given distinguished service to the cause of science, or who have brought great benefits to science, but who do not have the scientific achievements of the kind required of those who could be elected as Fellows or Foreign Members. Honorary Fellows include Bill Bryson and Melvyn Bragg.

New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admissions Day ceremony, traditionally in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society. However, considering current circumstances, this year’s Admissions Day will take place in May 2021

Selected websites

  • Wellcome Sanger Institute

    The Sanger Institute is one of the world’s leading genome and biodata institutes. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease and to understand life on Earth. Find out more at or follow @sangerinstitute on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and on our Blog.