Bath to create UK’s first centre for evolution research

The University of Bath is to launch a centre for evolution research, following the largest ever donation from one of its graduates

Dr Jonathan Milner (pictured), who graduated in Biology & Biochemistry at Bath in 1988, is donating £5 million towards establishing the Milner Centre for Evolution. The gift will help support the construction of new research facilities and will contribute to new research projects and new appointments including academic researchers and a full time public engagement officer.

The Milner Centre for Evolution will be the first of its kind in the UK and only the second in the world to focus on evolutionary research.

It will concentrate on three related strands:

  • Fundamental research into how life evolved, from investigating the evolution of genes to studying fossil records;
  • Applied research into the evolution of microbes, including genetic tracking of MRSA infections, and applying this knowledge to improve medical treatments;
  • Communication of evolution research to the public, including improving the teaching of evolution in schools at primary and secondary level, running free open access online courses (MOOCs) and using evolution to improve public health messaging.

Following his PhD at Leicester University, Dr Milner returned to Bath in 1995 as a post-doctoral Research Fellow for pharmaceutical company Pfizer on a project involving antibody engineering. He later went on to found Abcam, one of the major suppliers in the world of antibodies for scientific research.

He said: “No other world centre combines outreach with research and so our Centre will not simply be providing world-class evolution research, but will also engage the public in that research so that everyone can learn and benefit from this knowledge.

“Bath is where my scientific career began and with the world-leading research into evolution already going on there, it is the natural place to choose for this Centre.”

Dr Milner was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University in 2013 for his services to life sciences.  

Construction of the new Milner Centre for Evolution is expected to start in autumn 2016, and it is due to open in December 2017.

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