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Jack Birch Unit for Molecular Carcinogenesis‌


Find our more about what the JBU has spent funds from YAC on over the last five years


Find out about the research interests of the JBU and why the urothelium is so important 

A centre of excellence in research on the human bladder lining, the urothelium.

Welcome from the Director, Professor Jenny Southgate

The Jack Birch Unit (JBU) was opened in 1992 and is the flagship research unit of York Against Cancer. Research in the JBU concentrates on epithelial tissues with a focus on cancers that develop from urothelium, the specialised epithelial lining of the bladder and urinary tract. Urothelial cancers receive relatively little research attention despite being one of the ten most common adult cancers and with significant unmet clinical needs. Bladder cancer is particularly pertinent to York Against Cancer as a result of the industrial heritage of the Yorkshire region increasing incidence above the national average.

Under my directorship, and with the support of York Against Cancer, the principal investigators in the Jack Birch Unit have increased to include two independent research fellows:

  • Dr Simon Baker - Kidney Research UK Intermediate Research Fellowship
  • Dr Andrew Mason – York Against Cancer 30th Anniversary Research Fellowship in Cancer Informatics (converting in November 2022 to a Departmental lectureship)

My mission is to lead the growing Jack Birch Unit team to deliver cutting-edge research on molecular carcinogenesis to inform future disease prevention and therapeutic options.


Find links to our most recent publications

Bladder Cancer: the facts

While research in the JBU has a general focus on epithelial cancers, the primary focus is on bladder cancer.

  • Bladder cancer is the 11th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for three per cent of all new cancer cases (2016-2018)
  • There are around 10,300 new bladder cancer cases in the UK every year, that's 28 every day (2016-2018)
  • There are around 5,500 bladder cancer deaths in the UK each year and is the 10th most common cause of cancer death in the UK (2016-2018)
  • It is thought that nearly half of bladder cancer cases in the UK are preventable, with an 80 per cent survival rate if caught early.

Further bladder cancer statistics are available from Cancer Research UK.

York Against Cancer

York Against Cancer is a local charity helping local people affected by cancer. They provide funding to the Jack Birch Unit to aid research into bladder cancer. 

They also provide care and support for patients and their families in York and North Yorkshire, while also providing cancer awareness education and information.

Find out more


PhD studentships

We offer opportunities for self-funded PhD and Masters by Research studentships through either the York Biomedical Research Institute programme in Biomedical Sciences or the Department of Biology.  Please contact us for more information. Example projects are:

Fully-funded Studentships:

  • Homeostatic mechanisms in human urothelium: balancing of tissue regeneration and differentiation with implications for regenerative medicine and cancer. Supervisor: Professor Jennifer Southgate

  • Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) are the remnants of retroviral infections in our evolutionary past that contribute eight per cent of our genome. Supervisor: Dr Andrew Mason

When available, fully-funded PhD studentships are advertised through 

Our research areas

Research in the JBU is organised into clusters, consisting of research staff and students. They focus on these research areas:

Staff and students

The JBU’s staff and students focus on research projects across a wide range of topics associated with bladder function and disease, including cancer. Work in the lab spans areas of fundamental research to clinical and applied projects. Find out who they are, what they are currently working on and their previous experience. 

See staff and students