Dr Ildem Akerman PhD

Ildem Akerman

Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research
Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellow
Associate Professor in Functional Genomics

Contact details

Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Institute of Biomedical Research
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Akerman is interested in answering fundamental questions about gene regulation in diseased and healthy pancreatic beta cells through integrated use of molecular, genomic, computational and systems biology. Her team aims to understand how various types of noncoding DNA elements interact to establish gene expression in the pancreatic beta cell. With the support of Diabetes UK, Akerman lab has established a state-of-the-art stem cell to pancreatic beta cell differentiation protocol and aims to understand and improve test-tube pancreatic beta cells for the treatment of diabetes. 


  • DPhil in Molecular Genetics, University of Oxford, 2011
  • MSc in Molecular Genetics, University of Oxford, 2003
  • BSc (highest distinction) in Genetics, University of Rochester, 2002


Dr Ildem Akerman received her DPhil. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Oxford. She later joined the team of Professor Jorge Ferrer as a postdoctoral researcher at IDIBAPS, Spain/Imperial College, London. Her earlier work characterized coding mutations that cause human pancreatic agenesis in the GATA6 gene, a previously unsuspected candidate in the pancreatic development. In addition to coding mutations, she characterized a number of cis-regulatory noncoding mutations that underlie neonatal diabetes, proving that non-coding mutations can also underlie human neonatal diabetes. In 2016, Ildem moved to IGH, Montpellier, as a Laboratory of Excellence Fellow (Labex) in order to study the link between transcription and initiation of DNA replication.

After a short year, she was recruited to the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research (IMSR) at the University of Birmingham as a Birmingham Fellow, her first position as an independent group leader. In 2020, Ildem was awarded a prestigious RD Lawrence fellow and an AMS Springboard award and soon after got promoted to Associate Professor.


Dr Akerman's research aims to understand how gene expression is established and maintained in the pancreatic beta cell by the cis-regulatory elements and transcriptional networks.

One line of research in the laboratory is to study how transcription factors impact pancreatic beta cell differentiation in vitro. For this, her talented post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Fiona Docherty established a 3-dimensional (3D) stem cell to pancreatic beta cell differentiation protocol (see Figure). This Diabetes UK funded project aims to identify druggable novel regulators of pancreatic beta cell differentiation with the aim of generating better functioning stem cell generated beta cells.

Another line of research in the Akerman lab focuses on studying the link between DNA replication and its potential regulatory effects on transcription and 3D genome structure during differentiation (of pancreatic beta cells). This project aims to clarify the cross-talk of two fundamental processes of a mammalian cell during development.

 Figure1: Stem cell to β-cell differentiation protocol established at Akerman Lab

Other activities

  • Deputy Lead for Genomics Birmingham Tech Hub Committee (2020-2022)
  • Early Career Representative, IMSR executive committee (2018-2020)
  • SUSTAIN MDS 2021 - Mentee
  • Lecturer for MSc degree in Genomic Medicine, and MSc Bioinformatics, University of Birmingham
  • Mentor, Black Internship Programme, HDR UK (2021-now)
  • Labex Postdoc representative (2016-2017)


Recent publications


Cuozzo, F, Viloria, K, Shilleh, AH, Nasteska, D, Frazer-Morris, C, Tong, J, Jiao, Z, Boufersaoui, A, Marzullo, B, Rosoff, DB, Smith, HR, Bonner, C, Kerr-Conte, J, Pattou, F, Nano, R, Piemonti, L, Johnson, PRV, Spiers, R, Roberts, J, Lavery, GG, Clark, A, Ceresa, CDL, Ray, DW, Hodson, L, Davies, AP, Rutter, GA, Oshima, M, Scharfmann, R, Merrins, MJ, Akerman, I, Tennant, DA, Ludwig, C & Hodson, DJ 2024, 'LDHB contributes to the regulation of lactate levels and basal insulin secretion in human pancreatic β cells', Cell Reports, vol. 43, no. 4, 114047. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2024.114047

Prorok, P, Forouzanfar, F, Murugarren, N, Peiffer, I, Charton, R, Akerman, I & Méchali, M 2023, 'Loss of Ezh2 function remodels the DNA replication initiation landscape', Cell Reports, vol. 42, no. 4, 112280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112280

Akerman, I, Maestro, MA, De Franco, E, Grau, V, Flanagan, S, Garcia-Hurtado, J, Mittler, G, Ravassard, P, Piemonti, L, Ellard, S, Hattersley, AT & Ferrer, J 2021, 'Neonatal diabetes mutations disrupt a chromatin pioneering function that activates the human insulin gene', Cell Reports, vol. 35, no. 2, 108981. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108981

Nasteska, D, Fine, N, Ashford, F, Cuozzo, F, Viloria, K, Smith, G, Dahir, A, Dawson, PWJ, Lai, Y-C, Bastidas-Ponce, A, Bakhti, M, Rutter, G, Fiancette, R, Nano, R, Piemonti, L, Lickert, H, Zhou, Q, Akerman, I & Hodson, D 2021, 'PDX1LOW MAFALOW β-cells contribute to islet function and insulin release', Nature Communications, vol. 12, no. 1, 674. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20632-z

Schiffer, L, Bossey, A, Kempegowda, P, Taylor, A, Akerman, I, Scheel-Toellner, D, Storbeck, K-H & Arlt, W 2021, 'Peripheral blood mononuclear cells preferentially activate 11-oxygenated androgens', European Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 184, no. 3, pp. 353–363. https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-20-1077

Nasteska, D, Cuozzo, F, Viloria, K, Johnson, E, Thakker, A, Bakar, RB, Westbrook, R, Barlow, J, Hoang, M, Joseph, J, Lavery, G, Akerman, I, Cantley, J, Hodson, L, Tennant, D & Hodson, D 2021, 'Prolyl-4-hydroxylase 3 maintains β-cell glucose metabolism during fatty acid excess in mice', JCI Insight, vol. 6, no. 16, e140288. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.140288

Westgate, C, Botfield, H, Alimajstorovic, Z, Yiangou, A, Walsh, M, Smith, G, Singhal, R, Mitchell, J, Grech, O, Markey, K, Hebenstreit, D, Tennant, D, Tomlinson, J, Mollan, S, Ludwig, C, Akerman, I, Lavery, G & Sinclair, A 2021, 'Systemic and adipocyte transcriptional and metabolic dysregulation in idiopathic intracranial hypertension', JCI Insight, vol. 6, no. 10, e145346. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.145346

Akerman, I, Kasaai, B, Bazarova, A, Sang, PB, Peiffer, I, Artufel, M, Derelle, R, Smith, G, Rodriguez-Martinez, M, Romano, M, Kinet, S, Tino, P, Theillet, C, Taylor, N, Ballester, B & Méchali, M 2020, 'A predictable conserved DNA base composition signature defines human core DNA replication origins', Nature Communications, vol. 11, no. 1, 4826 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18527-0

Viloria, KM, Nasteska, D, Briant, LJB, Heising, S, Larner, D, Fine, N, Ashford, F, Da Silva Xavier, G, Jimenez-Gonzalez, M, Hasib, A, Cuozzo, F, Manning Fox, J, MacDonald, P, Akerman, I, Lavery, G, Flaxman, C, Morgan, N, Richardson, S, Hewison, M & Hodson, D 2020, 'Vitamin-D-binding protein contributes to the maintenance of α cell function and glucagon secretion', Cell Reports, vol. 31, no. 11, 107761. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107761

Bazarova, A, Nieduszynski, CA, Akerman, I & Burroughs, NJ 2019, 'Bayesian inference of origin firing time distributions, origin interference and licensing probabilities from NGS data', Nucleic Acids Research, vol. 47, no. 5, pp. 2229–2243. https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkn000

Ganier, O, Prorok, P, Akerman, I & Méchali, M 2019, 'Metazoan DNA replication origins', Current Opinion in Cell Biology, vol. 58, pp. 134-141.

Elhassan, YS, Kluckova, K, Fletcher, RS, Schmidt, MS, Garten, A, Doig, CL, Cartwright, DM, Oakey, L, Burley, CV, Jenkinson, N, Wilson, M, Lucas, SJE, Akerman, I, Seabright, A, Lai, Y, Tennant, DA, Nightingale, P, Wallis, GA, Manolopoulos, KN, Brenner, C, Philp, A & Lavery, GG 2019, 'Nicotinamide riboside augments the aged human skeletal muscle NAD+ metabolome and induces transcriptomic and anti-inflammatory signatures', Cell Reports, vol. 28, no. 7, pp. 1717-1728.e6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.07.043

Akerman, I, Tu, Z, Beucher, A, Rolando, DMY, Sauty-Colace, C, Benazra, M, Nakic, N, Yang, J, Wang, H, Pasquali, L, Moran, I, Garcia-Hurtado, J, Castro, N, Gonzalez-Franco, R, Stewart, AF, Bonner, C, Piemonti, L, Berney, T, Groop, L, Kerr-Conte, J, Pattou, F, Argmann, C, Schadt, E, Ravassard, P & Ferrer, J 2017, 'Human pancreatic β cell lncRNAs control cell-specific regulatory networks', Cell Metabolism, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 400-411. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.11.016


Schiffer, L, Bossey, A, Taylor, AE, Akerman, I, Scheel-Toellner, D, Storbeck, K-H & Arlt, W 2020 'Peripheral blood mononuclear cells preferentially activate 11-oxygenated androgens'. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.08.288316

Working paper

Viloria, K, Nasteska, D, Briant, LJB, Heising, S, Larner, D, Fine, NHF, Ashford, FB, Xavier, GDS, Ramos, MJ, Fox, JEM, MacDonald, PE, Akerman, I, Lavery, GG, Flaxman, C, Morgan, NG, Richardson, SJ, Hewison, M & Hodson, DJ 2019 'Vitamin D-binding protein is required for the maintenance of α-cell function and glucagon secretion' bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2019.12.19.881185

View all publications in research portal