Professor Jenny Southgate
Director, Jack Birch Unit



1999 - Professor of Molecular Carcinogenesis & Director of the Jack Birch Unit of Molecular Carcinogenesis Department of Biology, University of York
1993 - 1999 Head of ICRF Lab 'Biology of Normal and Malignant Epithelial Cells' Cancer Medicine Research Unit, University of Leeds
1990 - 1999 Research Fellow, then Senior then Principal Research Fellow Cancer Medicine Research Unit, University of Leeds 
1989 PhD University of Leeds
1983 GI Biol (2:1 Hons) Institute of Biology
1978 - 1990 Research Officer Imperial Cancer Research Fund               

Departmental roles

Research Focus lead for Molecular & Cellular Medicine

Member of the Biology Department Research Committee 

Theme Lead for Molecular Cell Medicine for York Biomedical Research Institute (YBRI)




Professor Jenny Southgate is Director of the Jack Birch Unit for Molecular Carcinogenesis (JBU) and holds a Research Chair funded externally by York Against Cancer. The research of the JBU focuses on human epithelial tissues and their cancers. Our aims are to understand the processes that control proliferation, differentiation and cellular organisation in normal and wounded epithelial tissues and how dysregulation of these processes leads to the development and progression of malignant disease. Most of the work in the Unit focuses on urothelium, the specialised epithelium that lines the urinary tract and gives rise to bladder cancer. A range of cell and tissue culture systems have been developed to study urothelial cells from normal and diseased tissues, and methods have been established using retroviruses to enable gene manipulation in order to recapitulate the early stages of neoplastic development. The capacity for in vitro-propagated normal human urothelial cells to undergo differentiation and form a functional urinary barrier has led to an interest in reconstructing urothelial cells into functional tissues for the purpose of tissue engineering and we are also examining the use of natural biomaterials as scaffolds for this purpose.



  • Jack Birch Unit of Molecular Carcinogenesis 5 year support programme.  (Funding body: York Against Cancer)
  • The Urotheliome (Funding body: The Astellas European Foundation 2010 prize in urology)
  • Large-scale integrative approach to unravel the complex relationships between differentiation and tumorigenesis. Research projects in the field of multidisciplinary approaches in modelling complex biological processes applied to cancer (Systems biology) (Funding body:  Inserm)
  • Autologous cell engineered bladder augmentation. (Funding body:  Medical Research Council)
  • BETTER BLADDERS: Bladder Epithelial Therapy Through Epigenetic Rejuvenation (Funding body: IMPRESSplus)
  • Identification of therapeutic targets to modulate urothelial remodelling for interstitial cystitis (Funding body: Ono Pharmaceuticals Ltd)
  • Regenerative therapy for benign dysfunctional conditions of the urinary bladder. (Funding body: MRC Confidence in Concept Award (CiC))
  • Challenging dogma: an alternative non-hierarchical, epigenetically regulated model of the urothelium (Funding body:  Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council)
  • Nuclear receptor-activated transcriptomic signatures in human urothelium for the deconvolution of tumour transcriptomes (Funding body: John Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute Research Fund)
  • Digital Spatial Profiling in biomedical research. (Funding body:  Wellcome Trust).
  • Modify-catch-release-repeat: Reversible bioconjugations for controlled release of small molecules from antibodies and their fragments (Funding body: EPSRC)
  • YAC 30th Anniversary Lectureship in Cancer Informatics. (Funding body: York Against Cancer)
  • Development of a novel human biomaterial HABM (Human Acellular Bladder Matrix) for surgical applications  (Funding body:  Grow MedTech)
  • Differentiation-dependent growth regulation in bladder cancer.  PhD studentship.  (Funding body: York Against Cancer)
  • Compartmentalisation of PPARγ during differentiation and neoplastic transformation.  PhD studentship (self-funded)


Research group(s)


Marie Fleming

Personal Assistant/Administrator Administration

Dr Simon Baker

Postdoctoral Research Associate The Urotheliome

Dr Andrew Mason

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Identification of therapeutic targets to modulate urothelial remodelling for interstitial cystitis.
Dr Sreemoti Banerjee Postdoctoral Research Associate 

An alternative, non-hierarchical epigenetically regulated model of the urothelium

Dr Jenny Hinley URoBank Manager & Senior Research Technician  

Dr Jo Pearson

Research Technician managing  Microbiology & Molecular Biology Facilities  

Ros Duke

Research Technician managing Tissue Culture Facilities


Dr Claire Varley Research Technician  Identification of therapeutic targets to modulate urothelial remodelling for interstitial cystitis
Olivia Foody Junior Research Technician  Identification of therapeutic targets to modulate urothelial remodelling for interstitial cystitis
Dr Debora Morgante Clinical Research Fellow/PhD Student Bladder derived natural acellular matrices for homologous urinary tract surgical applications 
Tom Crighton PhD Student Differentiation-dependent growth regulation in bladder cancer
Zhen Liu PhD Student Compartmentalisation of PPARγ during differentiation and neoplastic transformation

Available PhD research projects

 Available PhD research projects

Self-funded PhD Studentship (example below)

Project Title

Homeostatic mechanisms in human urothelium: balancing of tissue regeneration and differentiation with implications for regenerative medicine and cancer

The urothelium is the self-regenerating epithelium that lines the bladder, where it is highly specialised to function as a urinary barrier.  Although normally a mitotically-quiescent tissue, urothelium shows a rapid and highly regenerative response to damage.  Whether there is a specific progenitor or stem cell population remains controversial, as no such cell has been unequivocally identified. An alternative hypothesis is that all cells remain capable of switching into a regenerative phenotype, irrespective of differentiation state.  The project will examine this hypothesis in a well-established cell culture system, using a combination of cell and molecular biology approaches to examine the role of cell:cell interactions, downstream signal transduction and epigenetic regulation.  

Supervisor: Professor Jennifer Southgate (Biology, JBU)

Please contact Professor Jennifer Southgate:  if you would like to discuss this or other self-funded projects that may be available.





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As the holder of a Research Chair, I am passionate about science and “passing on the torch” to the next generations of young scientists. My teaching goal is to instil how underpinning scientific principles and learning can be combined with robust research practices to advance scientific knowledge and its translation into clinical and medical advances.


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I currently lecture on the 3rd year module Cell and Tissue Engineering. As a relatively new and multidisciplinary research field, this provides an exciting forum to explore how research can be driven by the practical goal of addressing clinical need, alongside some of the particular challenges that face translation into the clinic. My approach in these lectures is to provide a framework of clinical need, illustrate how basic scientific knowledge can be applied in a multidisciplinary research setting and use examples, including my own research, to demonstrate possible approaches. We also take a look at some examples from the literature to illustrate the importance of incorporating sound scientific and ethical principles in order to avoid the risk of doing harm.

I am a visiting lecturer on the Master Program in Bioengineering at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland (since 2010).


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I offer a stage two tutorial in the area of “epithelial tissue homeostasis and cancer”.  The content is not prescribed as I see this as the starting point for encouraging self-directed learning and thinking by students through discussion. I aim to support the development of key academic research skills through practice with presentations and reports. Frequently we review research papers selected and brought to the tutorial by the students, with the aim of developing a critical eye to sourcing and evaluating the literature.


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I am particularly enthusiastic that through the final year projects, we are able to offer the opportunity for undergraduate students to join us in the Jack Birch Research Unit to sample the environment of the well-run research unit for future career decisions. Projects are invariably aligned to our current research, with laboratory mentoring by members of the research team. We pride ourselves in providing high quality training in experimental design and research techniques which may include cell and tissue culture, histology, microscopy, RNA isolation and analysis using PCR amplification techniques, and protein analysis by western blotting and immunochemistry. 

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Contact details

Prof. Jenny Southgate
Director, Jack Birch Unit
Department of Biology (Area 13)
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328705