Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB)

Abstract

The Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, founded in 1962, gathered several research groups working on the structure and function of nucleic acids and proteins under one roof. The laboratory played a key role in the formation of the new science of molecular biology. Between 1962 and 2013, LMB researchers collected 10 Nobel Prizes for research performed in the laboratory, making it one of the most successful research institutions. The laboratory attracted many young researchers from around the world who spent their formative years at the LMB before moving on to set up their own laboratories, often exporting part of the LMB research culture. The LMB pursues fundamental research, but since the 1980s, it has also played an important role in technology transfer and in the creation of biotech start‐ups in the Cambridge area.

Key Concepts

  • The LMB was the first institution to carry the term ‘molecular biology’ in its name. It played a key role in the formation of the new science.
  • For a long time in Britain, the LMB was regarded as synonymous with molecular biology.
  • The LMB is independent from the University of Cambridge. It is funded by the Medical Research Council.
  • Many of the important achievements of the LMB lay in the development of innovative approaches for molecular structure determination, including X‐ray crystallography, electron microscopy, computational methods and sequencing techniques.
  • The Sanger Institute in Hinxton, funded by the Wellcome Trust, started out as s a spin‐off of the LMB, dedicated to the sequencing of model organisms and the human genome.
  • The LMB pursues fundamental research, but since the 1980s, it has also played an important role in technology transfer and in the creation of biotech start‐ups in the Cambridge area.

Keywords: Sanger Institute

Figure 1. The Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the new hospital site (1962). Reproduced with permission from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
Figure 2. The governing body of the LMB in 1967. From left, standing: John Kendrew, Francis Crick. Sitting: Hugh Huxley, Max Perutz, Fred Sanger, Sydney Brenner. Reproduced with permission from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
Figure 3. The canteen at the LMB (1970). Reproduced with permission from Ramsey & Muspratt Archive/Cambridgeshire Collection, Cambridge Central Library.
Figure 4. The entrance hall of the new laboratory building inaugurated in 2013. Reproduced with permission from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
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References

Finch J (2008) A Nobel Fellow on Every Floor: A History of LMB. Cambridge: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Perutz MF (1987) The birth of molecular biology. New Scientist 114: 38–41.

Sulston J and Ferry G (2002) The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome Project. London: Bantam Press.

Further reading

de Chadarevian S (2002) Designs for Life: Molecular Biology After World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

de Chadarevian S (2011) The making of an entrepreneurial science: biotechnology in Britain, 1975–1995. Isis 102: 601–33.

Ferry G (2007) Max Perutz and the Secret of Life. Cold Spring Harbor, VY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Huxley H (ed) (2013) Memories and Consequences: Visiting Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. Cambridge: Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Kenward M (ed) (1987) The Birth of Molecular Biology (Special edition to celebrate 40 years of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology), New Scientist 114 (1561) (with contributions by M. Perutz, H. Huxley, A. Klug, César Milstein, Fred Sanger, James Watson and Francis Crick).

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How to Cite close
de Chadarevian, Soraya(Jun 2015) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003409.pub2]