Adrian Bird | Former Associate Faculty

This person is a member of Sanger Institute Alumni.

Bird, Adrian

Adrian Bird was a member of Associate Faculty at the Wellcome Sanger Institute until 2017. This page is being maintained as a historical record of his work at the Sanger Institute and is no longer being maintained.

Adrian's research focus explores the way chemical marking of chromosomes influences genome activity in normal cells and in disease. As a member of Associate Faculty he pursued research projects in collaboration with Sanger scientists, taking advantage of the Institute's strength in large-scale genetics and genomics.

Adrian is based in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, Edinburgh University, where he holds the Buchanan Chair of Genetics. He graduated in Biochemistry from the University of Sussex UK and obtained his PhD at Edinburgh University.

Following postdoctoral experience at the Universities of Yale and Zurich, he joined the Medical Research Council's Mammalian Genome Unit in Edinburgh. In 1987 he moved to Vienna to become a Senior Scientist at the newly-founded Institute for Molecular Pathology.

Adrian's research focuses on the basic biology and biomedical significance of DNA methylation. His research team identified CpG islands as gene markers in the vertebrate genome and discovered proteins that read the DNA methylation signal to influence chromatin structure. Mutations in one of these proteins, MeCP2, cause the autism spectrum disorder Rett Syndrome. His team also established a mouse model of Rett Syndrome and showed that the resulting severe neurological phenotype can be cured. Awards include the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (1999) and the Gairdner International Award (2011).


  • Rett syndrome: a complex disorder with simple roots.

    Lyst MJ and Bird A

    Nature reviews. Genetics 2015;16;5;261-75

  • Synthetic CpG islands reveal DNA sequence determinants of chromatin structure.

    Wachter E, Quante T, Merusi C, Arczewska A, Stewart F et al.

    eLife 2014;3;e03397

  • Rett syndrome mutations abolish the interaction of MeCP2 with the NCoR/SMRT co-repressor.

    Lyst MJ, Ekiert R, Ebert DH, Merusi C, Nowak J et al.

    Nature neuroscience 2013;16;7;898-902

  • CpG islands and the regulation of transcription.

    Deaton AM and Bird A

    Genes & development 2011;25;10;1010-22

Bird, Adrian
Adrian's Timeline

Awarded the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine

Elected as Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences


Became a Knight of the British Empire (KBE)


Awarded the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award


Awarded the Royal Society GlaxoSmithKline Prize


Awarded the Gairdner International Award


Became a Wellcome Trust Governor (stepping down in 2010)


Awarded the Gabor Medal

Helped to create the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, Edinburgh and served as director until 2011

Became a Commander of the British Empire (CBE)

Awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine


Became Buchanan Professor of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh


Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society


Senior Scientist at the newly-founded Institute for Molecular Pathology, Vienna


Joined MRC Mammalian Genome Unit, Edinburgh