skip to content

Department of Pharmacology


Professor Mark Howarth - Group Leader

Sheild Professor of Pharmacology

E-mail: mh2186 [at]

Phone: +44 (0) 1223 34028 / 34021

Visit our new website:



Protein engineering, synthetic biology, cancer signalling, antibodies, vaccines, protein design, protein-protein interactions, immunology, bioconjugation, gastroenterology, directed evolution.


Investigator biography

Mark did graduate work in molecular immunology at Oxford University Institute of Molecular Medicine and Southampton University Cancer Sciences. In his postdoctoral work at MIT he developed tools in chemical biology, advanced microscopy and nanotechnology to understand receptor trafficking.

He became Professor of Protein Nanotechnology at Oxford University Department of Biochemistry, receiving the Royal Society of Chemistry Norman Heatley Prize for Chemical Biology. He is a founder of SpyBiotech, which is now running vaccine clinical trials, and several members of his group have founded their own start-up companies.

Mark gives lectures and workshops on Entrepreneurship to undergraduates and graduate groups. Resources from his group have been distributed to more than a thousand academic groups and licensed to a range of companies.

His work has been funded by ERC, BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust and through collaborations with multiple pharma and biotech companies. He moved to Cambridge to take up the Sheild Chair of Pharmacology in 2022.


Research summary

Inspired by extraordinary molecular features from the natural world, our research develops new approaches for disease prevention and therapy. By engineering and evolving proteins and cellular systems, our projects range from fundamental analysis of protein interactions through to clinical application.


Lab members

Gabrielle Admans, Claudia Driscoll, Rory Hills, Anthony Keeble, Lasya Vankayala, Dominic Wood, Deepak Chand, Sandra Oloketuyi, Miha Renko, Yujia Cui, Emily Nassen, Dawid Maciorowski


Key publications

Simultaneous identification of viruses and viral variants with programmable DNA nanobait.
Boskovic F, Zhu J, Tivony R, Ohmann A, Chen K, Alawami MF, Dordevic M, Ermann N, Pereira-Dias J, Fairhead M, Howarth M, Baker S, Keyser UF. Nature Nanotechnology. 2023 Mar;18(3):290-298.

NeissLock provides an inducible protein anhydride for covalent targeting of endogenous proteins.
Scheu AHA, Lim SYT, Metzner FJ, Mohammed S, Howarth M. Nature Communications 2021 Jan 29;12(1):717.

Gastrobodies are engineered antibody mimetics resilient to pepsin and hydrochloric acid.
Wicke N, Bedford MR, Howarth M. Communications Biology 2021 Aug 11;4(1):960.

Mosaic nanoparticles elicit cross-reactive immune responses to zoonotic coronaviruses in mice.
Cohen AA, Gnanapragasam PNP, Lee YE, Hoffman PR, Ou S, Kakutani LM, Keeffe JR, Wu HJ, Howarth M, West AP, Barnes CO, Nussenzweig MC, Bjorkman PJ. Science 2021 Feb 12;371(6530):735-741.

A COVID-19 vaccine candidate using SpyCatcher multimerization of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor-binding domain induces potent neutralising antibody responses. Tan TK, Rijal P, Rahikainen R, Keeble AH…Howarth M*, Townsend AR*. Nature Communications 2021 Jan 22;12(1):542. *Corresponding authors

Overcoming Symmetry Mismatch in Vaccine Nanoassembly through Spontaneous Amidation.
Rahikainen R, Rijal P, Tan TK, Wu HJ, Andersson AC, Barrett JR, Bowden TA, Draper SJ, Townsend AR, Howarth M. Angewandte Chemie 2021 Jan 4;60(1):321-330.

Approaching infinite affinity through engineering of peptide-protein interaction. 
Keeble AH, Turkki P, Stokes S, Khairil Anuar INA, Rahikainen R, Hytönen VP*, Howarth M*. PNAS 2019 116:26523-26533.  *Corresponding authors

Spy&Go purification of SpyTag-proteins using pseudo-SpyCatcher to access an oligomerization toolbox. 
Khairil Anuar INA, Banerjee A, Keeble AH, Carella A, Nikov GI, Howarth M. Nature Communications 2019 10:1734.


Tweets by @HowarthSci