Professor Karen A Lillycrop
Professor Karen A Lillycrop BSc, PhD, Professor of Epigenetics
Principal Investigator (Transcriptional regulation & epigenetics)
Deputy Head of Biological Sciences
Director of Research


Karen Lillycrop is a founder member of the EpiGen Consortium, an international Consortium, investigating the role of epigenetic processes in the developmental origins of disease. The incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome has risen sharply over the last 20 years and has now reached epidemic proportions. Genome-wide association studies have shown that fixed genomic variations can only explain a fraction of the variation in NCD risk within a population. There is, however, increasing evidence that the environment acting through epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation can influence our future disease risk. The understanding of the mechanism by which early life environment can alter the epigenome leading to long term changes in disease risk is now critical both for the identification of individuals at increased risk and the development of intervention strategies to combat the rapid rise in NCDs. Karen has over 20 years’ experience in the study of gene regulation and on the effect of early life environment on the epigenome. Karen was the first to show that maternal nutrition can alter the methylation of key metabolic genes within the offspring and was awarded the Nick Hales prize for her outstanding contribution to research into the developmental origins of health and disease. Karen has received funding from charities, research councils, European Commission, and the food industry and collaborates widely with many research groups in a number of countries including Australia, Singapore, Africa, India, New Zealand, Jamaica and the US. Karen has been a plenary speaker at national and international conferences on epigenetics and has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers. Current research projects include: environmental modulation of the epigenome, effect of early life nutrition on noncommunicable disease risk, transgenerational transmission of obesity and identification of predictive intervention strategies.