Professorial Fellow in Biochemistry

Francis Barr

  • I am the EP Abraham Professor of Mechanistic Cell Biology and Head of Department in the Department of Biochemistry.

  • My research addresses the mechanism by which human cells regulate cell division and membrane traffic and how dysregulation of these pathways can lead to cancer and other human diseases.

  • I studied at Imperial College, London and at the EMBL in Heidelberg and went on to do postdoctoral work at Cancer Research UK.

  • Before coming to Oxford, I was a group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich and then North West Cancer Research Professor at the University of Liverpool.

A detail from the back gate to Trinity College, with a gryphon in metal.


I supervise doctoral students on topics in the areas of molecular, cell, systems and structural biology.


The Barr lab uses cell and structural biology, as well as computational modelling to explain the cellular mechanisms needed for cell division and the function of membrane organelles. We also explore the consequences of dysregulation of these pathways in human cancers and other diseases. By researching these molecular mechanisms we contribute to the identification of targets that can be exploited therapeutically in these disorders. These projects are only possible through the continued funding and support of Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the BBSRC.

Our current research projects study the function of an interlinked network of protein kinases and phosphatases in dividing cells, and how they are localised and regulated. A major focus of our work has been the function of the PPP family of protein phosphatases in human cells: PP1, PP2A and PP6. We have shown how PP6 controls the activity of the kinase Aurora A, and found that this pathway is dysregulated in human cancers such as melanoma, where it drives genome instability and DNA damage. One of our aims is to exploit this pathway to specifically target and selectively kill tumours with amplified Aurora A kinase. Our other work has explained how regulation of the PP2A-B55 phosphatases contribute important timing properties to the metaphase to anaphase transition, and identified and modelled the behaviour of key substrate proteins in the cell. Most recently we have shown how the Aurora B kinases binds to chromosomes and is localised in cells undergoing cytokinesis.

Selected Publications

Serena, M., Bastos, R.N., Elliott, P.R., Barr, F.A., ‘Molecular basis of MLKP2-dependenr Aurora B transport from chromatin to the anaphase central spindle’, The Journal of cell biology (2020) 219 (7)

Bancroft, J., Holder, J., Geraghty, Z., Alfonso-Pérez, T., Murphy, D., Barr, F., Gruneberg, U., ‘PP1 promotes cyclin B destruction and the metaphase-anaphase transition by dephosphorylating CDC20’ (2020)

Holder, J., Mohammed, S., Barr, F., ‘Ordered dephosphorylation initiated by the selective proteolysis of cyclin B drives mitotic exit’ (2020)

Hayward, D., Bancroft, J., Mangat, D., Alfonso-Pérez, T., Dugdale, S., McCarthy, J., Barr, F.A., Gruneberg, U., ‘Checkpoint signaling and error correction require regulation of the MPS1 T-loop by PP2A-B56’, The Journal of cell biology (2019) 218 (10), 3188-3199

Holder, J., Poser, E., Barr, F.A., ‘Getting out of mitosis: spatial and temporal control of mitotic exit and cytokinesis by PP1 and PP2A’, FEBS Letters (2019) 593 (20), 2908-2924

Gerondopoulos, A., Strutt, H., Stevenson, N.L., Sobajima, T., Levine, T.P., Stephens, D.J., Strutt, D., Barr, F.A., ‘Planar Cell Polarity Effector Proteins Inturned and Fuzzy Form a Rab23 GEF Complex’, Current biology (2019) 29 (19), 3323-3330

Professor Barr

I am working to understand the molecular nuts and bolts of cell division processes and identify potential new treatment targets.