Skip to content


Fellows Directory

William Harris

William Harris

Professor William Harris FMedSci FRS


Elected: 2007


Bill Harris is a developmental neurobiologist who has explored how embryonic cells adopt specialised identities, grow towards their targets and form connections in the brain. His work on the retina has expanded our understanding of brain development as well as suggesting potential applications in clinical ophthalmology.

Bill showed that whilst growing neurons do not need to be electrically active in their early stages, activity does play a role as they form connections. He also revealed that the growing tips of axons are guided by local cues. His classic studies in zebrafish showed that progenitor cells in the retina could give rise to a variety of cell types.

The network of factors regulating retinal development that Bill discovered could lead to stem cell treatments for degenerative eye diseases. Recognising that the zebrafish embryo could potentially be used to screen drug candidates for neurological conditions, Bill co-founded a spinout company to develop the platform.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
    • Development and control of behaviour
  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Biological modelling


developmental neurobiology, retina , central nervous system, molecular biology, Zebrafish, transcription factors, Xenopus, cell determination, proliferation, differentiation

Was this page useful?
Thank you for your feedback
Thank you for your feedback. Please help us improve this page by taking our short survey.