Csp2 hero

Systems Genomics approaches to understand complex phenotypes (2017 - 2023)

This research programme has now concluded. Please visit Our Research Programmes to find out about our current research.

Programme mission.

Placing genetic variation in the context of complex biological networks.


Evolution is driven by genetic variation and deciphering the sources and biological effects of this variation is pivotal for understanding the genotype-to-phenotype relationship underlying adaptation, evolution and health. To do this we need to understand the complex network regulation of the biology of an organism. Within the CSP we aim to generate and integrate complex biological datasets to build the biological networks controlling important biological processes. For key microbes we aim to generate entire interconnected networks, while with target plants and vertebrates we will focus on specific processes.

This work will be of interest to a wide range of researchers throughout the life sciences, from evolutionary studies to systems biology-level. The variants and network targets identified under this programme will be of direct interest to breeders and researchers working on breeding improvement programmes and sustainable disease management. This will be of interest to clinical researchers as well as the food industry working in the development of food products and supplements. Importantly, the experimental and computational workflows developed to carry out these studies can also be applied to diverse species and systems.

Example projects include:

The 24h clock

We aim to focus on reconstructing the complex biological network controlling 24h circadian rhythms in wheat. This will address important questions of how biological networks interact to regulate complex genomes and will also allow us to understand how robustness and flexibility is built into these networks. Time and synchronisation underpin many important agricultural traits and wheat breeders have already inadvertently targeted clock genes. It will be important to understand how these variants affect the network, with the future aim of designing rational approaches to manipulating the circadian clock in wheat.

Host-microbe interactions

This programme brings together the variants and traits identified in each of our study species. By using the biological networks we develop we can place this genetic variation in context and start to understand how variation is not just affecting a single gene but the network as a whole. This will allow us to understand network architecture and to identify key points within networks that can be targeted for manipulating traits, or targets for drug design.



Delivering impact.

Understanding how living systems work, across interactions at the micro and macro level, is crucial for a deeper understanding of the biology of organisms. We will deliver impact across food security and sustainability through the development of predictive and testable models in economically important organisms. Industries our work will support include aquaculture, plant biotechnology and pharma. Our work will be made available to the wider research community through publications and open data resources to maximise knowledge exchange opportunities.


Explore our strategic programmes.