The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a research institute funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development.
SLCU was opened in 2011 by HM the Queen and won the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 2012. The Institute is well equipped for pioneering plant science research with its modern 11,000m2 building that incorporates laboratories, support areas, and meeting spaces, together with the University’s Herbarium, public café and a 150-seat auditorium where academic symposia and public talks are held. SLCU has 42 controlled environment growth rooms, 300m2 of growing space under glass, tissue culture rooms and Level 2 Containment facilities. There is an in-house state-of-the-art advanced imaging facility for scientists working on several aspects of plant developmental biology, including live imaging of developing plant tissues, and high-resolution scanning electron microscopy. The Laboratory is also set-up to support advanced bioinformatics, image processing and modelling software development
Plants are the foundation for virtually every ecosystem and agricultural system on Earth. A fundamental understanding of how plants grow and develop is therefore paramount for the long term security of a sustainable supply of food and other plant products, such as fuel, fibres and building materials.
The study of plant development is being transformed by the new scientific and technical resources becoming available to biologists, including high-throughput DNA sequencing, new imaging methods, increasingly sophisticated genetic tools, and refined chemical interventions. The data derived from these approaches have opened the way for predictive computational models, which are essential for understanding the dynamic, self-organising properties of plants.
We now have an unprecedented opportunity to obtain an integrated understanding of plant development, setting the stage for a new synthesis that will draw on molecular, cellular, whole plant, and population biology to elucidate how plants are constructed. SLCU is establishing a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment that will capitalise on these exciting opportunities.