Artist Anna Dumitriu is undertaking a Leverhulme Artist in Residence project with the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, collaborating with EPSRC Healthcare Technologies Fellow and Physical Sciences for Healthcare Centre member, Dr Robert K Neely and colleagues to explore the impact of new developments in chemistry on biotechnology. A major focus of this project will be communicating the BeyondSeq project – an EU-funded collaboration using new forms of optical DNA mapping technologies to develop new diagnostic tools.

The residency takes place from January – October 2017, and over the next several months Anna and the team will be developing artwork and workshops employing craft techniques, sculpture, digital technology, and the tools and techniques of chemistry and biotechnology, such as DNA imaging tools, working creatively with novel methods of sequencing using fluorescent chemical compounds.

Anna is a British artist whose work fuses craft, sculpture and bioscience to explore our relationship to the microbial world, technology and biomedicine. Her distinctive artistic approach involves physically incorporating biological material into many of her pieces - previous work has included her creation of a Regency style dress embroidered using antibiotic stained silk threads, with patterns grown using pigmented bacteria; creation of beaded jewellery both based on and containing the precise protein structure of an antibody purified from the blood of a HIV positive patient; and video-mapped and virtual reality installations exploring next generation DNA sequencing technologies, pictured below.


She has exhibited work internationally including at The Picasso Museum in Barcelona, The Science Gallery in Dublin, The Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Waag Society Amsterdam, Art Laboratory Berlin, and The V & A Museum in London. Her work is also held in several major public collections including the Science Museum London and the Eden Project.

The Leverhulme Trust provides grants and scholarships for research and education across academic disciplines, to support talented individuals in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences in producing research that advances our knowledge of the world and ourselves.  This Artist in Residence grant will allow Anna to explore the cutting-edge science of optical DNA mapping and the potential impact of the research. Throughout the project, Anna and Rob will be working with venues including Birmingham Open Media (BOM) and ThinkTank, Birmingham Science Museum to break down the barriers between those affected by the research in the longer term and those doing the science.

Rob Neely explains the motivation for the project:

“My group are pioneering fluorescent labelling of the DNA molecule using an enzymatic approach. The result is a visualization of the DNA sequence, something akin to a barcode that can be used to easily identify species. This project is part of a wider collaboration with members of the BeyondSeq consortium, an EU Horizon2020 project that aims to develop new tools for diagnosing genomic disorders. The collaboration with Dumitriu will allow my lab to explore new ways of visualizing and better communicating its output with a wider public audience, as well as reflecting on the societal implications of our work.”

At the conclusion of the project, a final exhibition of artworks and a series of workshops will take place at Birmingham Open Media. The results will also be communicated through talks, and print and online media over the coming months.

We will communicate outputs from the project as they are produced, so check back for further news updates and keep up with us on twitter @UoBSciPhy.