Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineInstitute of Clinical Sciences

Professor of Genome Biochemistry & Molecular Biology



+44 (0)20 3313 3387chris.speck Website CV




Ms Alessandra Lisini +44 (0)20 3313 8236




3006CRB (Clinical Research Building)Hammersmith Campus






The objective of the group is to discover new mechanisms in the initiation and elongation of DNA replication and to understand the function of replication factors in hetero-chromatin formation. We have reconstituted the loading of the eukaryotic replicative helicase onto DNA, an essential step in DNA replication and  use this system to address the mechanism and regulation of two key events: the loading of the eukaryotic DNA helicase onto DNA and the kinase dependent activation of the helicase. More recently, we have started to investigate the role of the helicase loading factors in epigenetic memory, which has important implications for human disease and aging.

Enquires from motivated and exceptional students and postdocs to work in the group are always welcome. Please send full CV and cover letter to:

Major scientific accomplishmenTs

Funding (past and present)

The Group is or has been funded by the BBSRC, DFG, JSPS, EPSRC, EU (ERASMUS, Marie Curie), Imperial College, Wellcome Trust, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Max Planck Society, and MRC.   

Group News & Congratulations to …


Great News, our iCASE studentship application was successful. We will collaborative with Refeyn Ltd and Professor Rueda to investigate DNA replication by mass photometry and to develop new analysis approaches.

Lepakshi Ranjha and Marina Ivanova join the lab as Postdocs. Big welcome!

We say good bye to the fantastic Sarah Schneider, who will embark on her new career as the cryo-EM facility manager at EMBL Grenoble. We will miss you wish you all the best for the future.

Work in the lab is slowly starting again...

With Covid-19, lab meetings, journal clubs and 1:1 meetings move to an online platform. 

Recruitment during Covid-19. Two fantastic postdocs will be joining in October - could not have hoped for a better outcome.

We had in February our group's third retreat at the beautiful Bellropes country estate. Exploration of scientific concepts, games and model building, lots of cooking and a visit of a brewery.

Group retreat 2020


Great news, our BBSRC grant application was successful! Huge congratulations to Sarah S, Al and Yasunori for writing a fantastic proposal and achieving a superb ranking: 4th out of 89. 

Our first data collection on the new LonCEM Titan Krios microscope using the K3 in super-resolution mode has just started. A dream come true...

Jessica Ellins and Shenaz Allyjaun join the lab as PhD students. Big welcome!

Joseph Dobbs joins the Group as a BSc student. Big welcome!

Greta Baltusyte joins the Group as a BA student. Big welcome!

Halil Bounoua joins the lab to carry out his BSc research project. Big welcome!

Sarah Faull joins the lab as a Postdoc. Big welcome!

Jillian Tay joins the lab to carry out her MRes research project. Big welcome!

Our eight GPU Cluster is almost ready for action - can't wait to see it happen...

Megan Turner joins the lab to carry out her MSc research project. Big welcome!

Audrey Mossler joins the group to gain experience in a UK lab. Big welcome!


Adrian Soderholm joins the lab to carry out his MRes research project. Big welcome!

Almutasem Saleh joins the lab as a Postdoc. Big welcome!

Marta, for passing her viva with minor corrections. Thanks to the examiners: Aga Gambus and Dave Carling. 

Tomorrow the lab goes on a retreat to Southminster. 3-days of fun, exploring of ideas & concepts, collaborative cooking and baking. Can't wait...

Adrian Soderholm joins the Group as a MRes student. Big welcome!

Cecilia Pennica joins the lab as a Postdoc. Big welcome!

I have never spend so much money on hard disks. Today our new 50TB storage server went online.

Marta for submitting her thesis. Well done!

Our new neighbour arrived - welcome to Kyle Morris, Senior Scientist,  advancing the cryo-EM efforts at the institute.

Owen Burbidge joins the lab as a Senior Biochemical Research Scientist. Big welcome!

Vera Leber joins the lab as a Postdoc. Big welcome!

Our new BBSRC grant was funded! Congratulations to everybody who helped, in particular Sarah.

Marta for having successfully applied for a Biochemical Society Sponsored Events Grant to support the Biochemistry Club.

Sarah for being awarded a prestigious two year year Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Research Fellowship

Ricardo Aramayo joined the institute as a senior cryo-EM scientist. He will take care of the cryo-EM facility. Big welcome!     


Katalin for being selected for the 2017 EMBL-EBI course in Structural Bioinformatics.

Yasunori  for being awarded a prestigious two year year Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Overseas Research Fellowship.

Chris Weekes joins the lab as a PhD student. Big welcome!

Group picnic on the scrubs. Quiche, pate, cake ... and even some sunshine!

Claire Rousseau from France joins the lab as a summer intern. Big welcome!

Katalin for raising funds for the Daphne Jackson Trust to support scientist to return after a career break.

Leonhard Karl from Germany joins the lab as an MSc student. Big welcome!

Marta for being awarded a Higher Education Academy Associate Fellowship

The London consortium for cryo-EM (LonCEM), of which the Speck lab is a founding member, was awarded £ 3 million by the Wellcome Trust to for high end cryo-Electron microscopy.

Katalin, who successfully applied towards the EMBO course on High-throughput protein production and crystallization.


The Imperial College PhD Presidents Scholarship and the MRC DTP studentship for October 2019 have been filled now. New fully funded PhD studentships will be advertised when they become available. Candidates that want to apply for scholarships can continue to contact Christian Speck by email ( Please indicate in your email for which fellowship you are eligible to apply. Please keep in mind that the Imperial College PhD Presidents Scholarship has been filled and therefore is not available.

OTher positions available

Bachelor/ MRes/ Master Students (UK/EU/International)

   Any students interested in pursuing research in our group should contact Christian Speck by email ( for potential openings. Please send your CV and explain your interest in the specific research area. European/International students must obtain independent funding through ERASMUS or via a government bursary to cover their expenses.       

PhD studentships

   Any students interested in pursuing postgraduate research in our group should contact me directly by email (; all prospective applicants should have or expect to obtain a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent) in biochemistry, or a closely related discipline.       

Postdoctoral opportunities

   If you are interested in joining the lab as a postdoc please contact Christian Speck by email ( sending your CV and explaining your interest in this specific research area. Outstanding PhD students are encouraged to make contact as early as possible to discuss potential fellowship applications, for example from the European Union, HFSP, etc.. Full assistance will be given in preparing a competitive research proposal with bridging funding being available to the candidates; we have an exceptional track record in accelerating the careers of outstanding postdoctoral researchers, with fellowships from Marie Curie, DFG, JSPS and MRC awarded to members of our lab.   


      October 2019Te Group October 2019

About Prof. Christian Speck

   Christian is a Professor of Genome Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the Institute for Clinical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB) and has been the recipient of two prestigious research fellowships from an US charity foundation and the Max Planck Society, research grants from the UK research councils, and   received the Wellcome Trust Investigator award in 2015. Christian served as an invited panel member during the scientific evaluation of the Horizon 2020-MSCA-IF-2016/2017- LIF, DAAD  and the French National Research Agency - ANR. He sits on the editorial board of the Biochemical Journal, chairs the Institutes Athena Swan committee and sits on the Clinical Science Centre Postgraduate Education Committee. Christian has been invited to numerous European and UK universities for research seminars and as a session Chair to the Cold Spring Harbor Replication meeting and the FEBS Congress. During his B.Sc. degree in biotechnology at the Beuth Hochschule of Berlin, Prof. Speck undertook a project at Genentech Inc in South San Francisco USA for 6 month in the laboratory of Dave Goeddel (CSO, Genentech) to get industry experience. Christian obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Free University of Berlin under the guidance of the late Prof. Walter Messer working at the Max-Planck institute of Molecular Genetics, while being funded by a Max-Planck Fellowship to study bacterial DNA replication. This work resulted in 3 first author publications including two in EMBO Journal. He then moved to the US to work with Bruce Stillman, President of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, while being supported by a Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Fellowship exploring eukaryotic DNA replication and the role of Cdc6 in initiation of DNA replication. This work resulted in 4 first author publications in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, PNAS and JBC. Following this period of training he moved to London to establish his group in 2006 at MRC-CSC and since 2013 at Imperial College London, Institute of Clinical Science. His group reconstituted the loading of the replicative helicase with purified proteins (F1000 – excellent) and identified a series of crucial mechanisms and regulatory principles in DNA replication being published in prominent journals such as Molecular Cell, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology Genes & Development and PNAS. In 2017 he became one of the founding members of the Wellcome Trust funded LonCEM consortium, which was awarded a Titan Krios cryo-EM with K3 detector. In the same year, he became a member of the Imperial College London Centre for Structural Biology (CSB) and in 2018 member of the associated Block Allocation Group (BAG) for flexible access to the Krios 1-4 of eBIC (Diamond Light Source - Harwell). In 2017 Christian, while being supported by Sarah S, has set-up the local cryo-EM screening facility at the Institute of Clinical Sciences. The facility is by now is fully operational and supports the electron microscopy efforts of the whole institute.                            

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Mendes ML, Fischer L, Chen ZA, et al., 2019, An integrated workflow for crosslinking mass spectrometry., Mol Syst Biol, Vol:15

Noguchi Y, yuan Z, Bai L, et al., 2017, Cryo-EM structure of Mcm2-7 double-hexamer on DNA suggests a lagging strand DNA extrusion model, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:114, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:E9529-E9538

Riera A, Barbon M, Noguchi Y, et al., 2017, From structure to mechanism – understanding initiation of DNA replication, Genes & Development, Vol:31, ISSN:1549-5477, Pages:1073-1088

Yuan Z, Riera A, Bai L, et al., 2017, Structural basis of MCM2-7 replicative helicase loading by ORC-Cdc6 and Cdt1, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Vol:24, ISSN:1545-9993, Pages:316-324

Herrera MC, Tognetti S, Riera A, et al., 2015, A reconstituted system reveals how activating and inhibitory interactions control DDK dependent assembly of the eukaryotic replicative helicase, Nucleic Acids Research, Vol:43, ISSN:1362-4962, Pages:10238-10250

Speck C, 2015, Cdc6 ATPase activity disengages Cdc6 from the pre-replicative complex to promote DNA replication, Elife, Vol:4, ISSN:2050-084X

Sun J, Fernandez-Cid A, Riera A, et al., 2014, Structural and mechanistic insights into Mcm2-7 double-hexamer assembly and function, Genes & Development, Vol:28, ISSN:0890-9369, Pages:2291-2303

Samel SA, Fernandez-Cid A, Sun J, et al., 2014, A unique DNA entry gate serves for regulated loading of the eukaryotic replicative helicase MCM2-7 onto DNA, Genes & Development, Vol:28, ISSN:0890-9369, Pages:1653-1666

Riera A, Tognetti S, Speck C, 2014, Helicase loading: How to build a MCM2-7 double-hexamer, Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, Vol:30, ISSN:1084-9521, Pages:104-109

Sun J, Evrin C, Samel AS, et al., 2013, Cryo-EM structure of a helicase loading intermediate containing ORC-Cdc6-Cdt1-MCM2-7 bound to DNA, Nature Structure Molecular Biology

Fernandez-Cid A, Riera A, Tognetti S, et al., 2013, An ORC/Cdc6/MCM2-7 Complex Is Formed in a Multistep Reaction to Serve as a Platform for MCM Double-Hexamer Assembly, Molecular Cell, Vol:50, ISSN:1097-2765, Pages:577-588

Evrin C, Clarke P, Zech J, et al., 2009, A double-hexameric MCM2-7 complex is loaded onto origin DNA during licensing of eukaryotic DNA replication, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:106, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:20240-20245

Speck C, Chen Z, Li H, et al., 2005, ATPase-dependent cooperative binding of ORC and Cdc6 to origin DNA., Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Vol:12, ISSN:1545-9993, Pages:965-971

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