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Fellows Directory

Adrian Bird

Sir Adrian Bird CBE FMedSci FRS


Elected: 1989


Adrian Bird is a world-leading geneticist whose research has revealed chemical modifications within our genome that turn on or silence genes, according to the needs of each cell. He is committed to finding a cure for Rett syndrome, which is caused by a disruption to this system of gene control.

Adrian discovered that within vertebrate genomes, pairings of two DNA subunits appear in clusters around the control regions of most genes. These ‘CpG islands’ helped geneticists to find genes amongst impossibly long stretches of DNA. But they’re more than just signposts; Adrian identified how chemical modification of CpG pairings influences the activity of their associated gene.

Adrian also discovered a protein that interacts with CpG, called MECP2. Mutation in the MECP2 gene was subsequently found to cause the autism spectrum disorder, Rett syndrome. Adrian is now racing to search out a cure for this devastating condition, and is a trustee of the Rett Syndrome Research Trust.


  • Gabor Medal

    In recognition of his pioneering work in the study of global mechanisms by which transcription of the mammalian genome is regulated and for his exploration into the molecular basis of fundamental biological mechanisms, particularly his development of ways of analysing methylation patterns of eukaryotic DNA using endonucleases and the discovery of and continued research into a new class of DNA sequences found in all vertebrates.

  • Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

    No citation available for this award.

  • Royal Society GlaxoSmithKline Prize and Lecture

    For his outstanding contributions in the field of epigenetics, especially DNA methylation and its role in development and disease.