Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy

Organization profile

CGCT logoThe Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy delivers research, teaching and outreach in gene and cell therapy, with a focus on rare diseases of the neuromuscular and central nervous systems.

Scientists from the Biological Sciences, Psychology and History departments work closely together and with external partners to develop novel therapeutics for rare diseases including ataxia telangiectasia, motor neuron disease (ALS), muscular dystrophies and atrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and neurofibromatosis, but also for more common ailments like spinal injuries, Parkinson Disease, Alzheimer disease and bacterial infections. They also explore public perceptions and understanding of gene therapies including genome editing, and the history of rare diseases.





The following are recent achievements of the scientists at the CGCT:


  • Microdystrophin gene therapy in a canine model, with a clinical trial planned
  • Gene therapy for oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy
  • Exon skipping for Duchenne, Alzheimer and motor neuron disease
  • Genome editing in models of Duchenne, immunodeficiency and ataxia telangiectasia
  • Regulation of self-renewal in muscle stem cells
  • In utero gene delivery to spinal motor neurons


For details you can use the "Researchers", "Publications" and "Projects" tabs above to browse the relevant information.

The research activity in the CGCT has been funded by numerous charitable and public organisations including Action for A-T, the Association Française contre les Myopathies, the Daphne Jackson Trust, the European Union, the Gilbert Family Foundation, Jesse's Journey, Muscular Dystrophy UK, Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK, Spinal Research, Rosetrees Trust, and others. Research has also been supported by Biotech companies like Sarepta Therapeutics, Benitec Biopharma and SynPromics.


You can watch CGCT Director Prof Yáñez-Muñoz in a 5-minute, plain-language videoclip on the Ataxia telangiectasia research:






The academics in the CGCT teach undergraduate and postgraduate students in their respective areas of expertise. Much of this teaching concerns the human genome, inherited diseases and current developments in gene and stem cell therapeutics. Their research groups host final year undergraduate students, and postgraduate students enroled in the MSc by Research, for their research projects. The MSc students in the current academic year are Julia Choromanska, Gabriel Jennings, Leoni Mahal, Ben Sadler and Chiara Sidoli.




CGCT scientists have developed and participate in numerous outreach activities. The highlight in this area is the annual Royal Holloway Rare Disease Day event, aimed at A-level student visitors who enjoy lectures, a stakeholder exhibition including many associations of people affected by rare diseases, and several hands-on activities in the teaching labs. The researchers also visit secondary schools, like in the Biology Master Class.
Beyond their teaching activities, the academics have prominent roles in relevant charities like the British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (where Prof Yáñez-Muñoz is the Treasurer and Dr Popplewell is a member of the Board) and the Genetic Alliance UK (chaired by Prof Yáñez-Muñoz). Finally, Prof Yáñez-Muñoz is the Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Gene Therapy.

RDD2017 videoclip




The CGCT has an outstanding Advisory Board with members providing expertise in the public and corporate sectors. The members of the Board are:
Paul Hogg, Royal Holloway, Vice-Principal (Innovation & Regulatory Affairs)
Sven Kili, Biotech Consultant and Board member, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine
Alicen Nickson, Royal Holloway, Director of Research and Enterprise
Katie Normington, Royal Holloway, Deputy Principal (Academic)
Emma Richards, Royal Holloway, Development Manager
David Thomson, Close Brothers Group, CEO, Invoice Finance and Rentals Division
Tania Tirraoro, Special Needs Jungle, CEO


 CGCT Board Meeting

Group photo after the first meeting of the Advisory Board at the Centre launch

28 Feb 2019 - Prof Yáñez-Muñoz is interviewed for The Naked Scientists podcast The common case of rare diseases.
28 Feb 2019 - Rare Disease Day 2019, Prof Yáñez-Muñoz publishes on Newborn blood spot screening in Guardian supplement.
26 Feb 2019 - 9th Rare Disease Day event at Royal Holloway, heavily over-subscribed and a complete success.
17 Dec 2018 - Prof Yáñez-Muñoz is appointed Chair of Trustees of the Genetic Alliance UK.
01 Dec 2018 - Dr Popplewell & Prof Dickson receive large grant from Gilbert Family Foundation for neurofibromatosis research.
27 Sep 2018 - Launch Meeting of the Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
26 Feb 2018 - 8th Rare Disease Day event at Royal Holloway.
15 Jan 2018 - The Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy receives founding approval from Royal Holloway's Research Committee.

 CGCT Launch Meeting

Launch Meeting of the Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy


UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Our work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or